29 September 2019 Paper

Conqueror mill saved by MBO

A management team has completed the buy out of Stoneywood and Chartham and will continue to produce its well known brands.

A management team has completed the buyout of the two UK mills that were part of the ArjoWiggins Creative Papers administration. The company has been trading while under administrators since January this year.

Along with the mills at Stoneywood, Aberdeen, and Chartham, Kent, and a sales office in Basingstoke, the team, led by managing director Jonathan Mitchell, the buyout has secured the company’s brands: Conqueror, Curious Collection and Keaycolour among them. This will continue to be produced and distributed through existing channels, led by Antalis.

Antalis UK national sales director Bruce Munro says: “We’re really pleased for our friends at ArjoWiggins Creative Papers. Congratulations to Jonathan Mitchell, Angus MacSween and the wider team who have been involved in a deal that enables this great brand, with a rich heritage that spans over 250 years, to continue to produce the finest papers on the market for generations to come.

“We look forward to building on our close strategic partnership with the ArjoWiggins Creative Papers team, inspiring our designers and printers with market leading fine paper and materials.”

The deal secures 559 jobs, 450 in Aberdeen. It follows nine months in administration where the mill attracted the attention of trade buyers, many taking the opportunity to run the rule over the business. But despite the interest no acceptable offer was forthcoming.

The eight strong management team, with the support of the Scottish government, secured funding through Shawbrook Bank and SQN Asset Finance Income Fund as well as a number of strategic customers. There was also significant backing from Scottish Enterprise.

Mitchell says: “The last nine months has been an unsettling time for the company and we are extremely grateful to the administrators, FRP Advisory, for having allowed the business to continue to trade while we found a workable solution.

“The support we have had from our staff, customers, suppliers and the Scottish Government has been incredible and without them this deal would not have been possible. There has been a real combined will to keep this historic business alive.”

The customer base did not drift away during the period. “We had tremendous support from our customers throughout this difficult period and have not identified any impact which can be directly linked to the process,” he adds.

The next step is to settle the business. There are no plans to expand distribution beyond the long standing relationship with Antalis and other merchants – EBB is an outlet for Conqueror for example – nor any immediate plans to take on third-party production for other paper companies.

The team is however in advanced negotiations with French administrators to acquire the remaining non UK assets of the failed group, including mills in Spain and China.

By Gareth Ward

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Jonathan Mitchell

Jonathan Mitchell

Jonathan Mitchell has led a management buyout of the ArjoWiggins Creative business in the UK with the support of Scottish Enterprise. The next step will be to secure assets on mainland Europe.

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