Fuller sells Focus to Shergill

Stricken print group Focus Press will be acquired by Mark Shergill, who emerged as the winner in the three way race to buy the four plant group.

Shergill has bought several print business in the past 12 months all of which have either been in receivership or like Focus teetering on the edge.

The fate of the four Focus plants, its staff and its assets are yet to be revealed, but it is more than likely there will be substantial job losses, and plant closures. The Focus site in Strathfield will be on the chopping block, as it is virtually next door to one of Shergill’s BPA sites.

Focus has opened two new sites in the past six months, the $8m Canberra plant which was built on the back of Focus buying PMP’s Canberra business a year ago, and the new $6.1m government funded Wollongong security printer.

The rapid demise of Focus highlights the ongoing struggles in the print industry as it comes to terms with the new post-GFC internet enabled world. Its management was clearly confident in the future of the business, investing in its new plants which were both effectively niche operations, and only a month ago was one of the companies in the running to buy STI Lilyfield, which has just been acquired by Blue Star.

David Fuller won a reputation as an environmental champion and was one of the more progressive members of the local print industry.

David Fuller, owner of Focus Press

David Fuller, former owner of Focus Press

His company had a trio of long perfectors, ten and 12-colours, and various other B1 presses, which needed substantial volumes to remain profitable.

Focus switched its market proposition six months ago to sell on quality, which cost it clients, and it jettisoned two dozen other clients who were serial late payers.

The new Wollongong facility was established with the aid of an eye watering $6.1m grant as part of the rejuvenation plan for the former steel town. However it was hampered by its main KBA press being damaged and a subsequent and as yet unresolved insurance claim, and there are claims that the staff, which had to be hired locally and retrained under the terms of the grant, struggled to get up to speed.

The future of the Wollongong site is complicated with the involvement of the government, who may think twice before awarding further grants to print businesses now.

Mark Shergill has alreay bought a trio of distressed print businesses in the past year including 110-year old Melbourne offset printer BPA Print Group, Gold Coast commercial printer Dynamic Print Communications, and another Melbourne printer, 153-year-old Troedel-Docucopy.

Shergill beat TMA and an unknown third party to the Focus deal, TMA, which was being advised by Bob MacMillan, pulled out over the weekend.

The Focus crisis broke when paper merchants Spicers and BJ Ball refused to supply Focus late last week. Spicers is allegedly owed some $2.3m and when Focus was unable to repay the bulk of that on Friday Spicers sent its staff into the plant to take its stock out. KW Doggett had already ceased trading with Focus before Christmas.


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