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Publishers 'up the ante' over EUK
01.01.70 | Philip Jones
Publishers are putting increased pressure on the administrators of Entertainment UK as they seek to gain control over the book stock left at the supermarket supplier's depots. But a Publishers Association-led delegation of UK publishers has "reaffirmed" its commitment to continue trading with Bertram/THE as negotiations continue over an expected sale of the business "within the month".
Ian Hudson, president of the Publishers Association and Random House deputy c.e.o., said that publishers had begun to "up the ante" over EUK's stock. Hudson said: "We are beginning to press our retention of title claims harder. We want to have control over the books now, so we can decide whether to retrieve them or accept some kind of alternative deal." Hudson put a time-frame of five to seven days for an arrangement to be made with the administrator.
Administrator Deloitte began scaling down the EUK business in mid-December. Hudson said that the administrator had agreed not to sell the stock below a certain price--understood to be 70p in the pound--but added: "What we don't want is for the books to end up in the remainder market."
It is estimated that as much as £10m worth of book stock remains in the EUK system, though this was not a figure Hudson could confirm.
Hudson added that supermarket shelves had remained stocked over Christmas, despite the problems. "All of the key players helped to get alternative supplies in place, and we are grateful for that effort. Tesco in particular, with the biggest books market share, has worked enormously hard, and David Cooke [books category manager] was first class. There was never any question of them turning their back on books."
Meanwhile, Hudson said that the PA delegation had met with Bertram's senior management on Tuesday (6th January) and had agreed to continue supply on the pro-forma basis put in place in early December in the wake of the administration of its parent Woolworths. Publishers' debt continues to be frozen as part of that deal. "We were happy to reaffirm our support for Bertrams," Hudson told The Bookseller. "We were told that there are a number of parties interested in taking them over, and we want to give them the maximum opportunity to realise that sale. We have no intention of making life any more difficult for them."
Michael Neil, managing director of Bertram/THE, told The Bookseller earlier this week that the sale was expected to take place by the end of January. It is thought that publishers want to see the sale take place within four to six weeks. Neil said talks were "still progressing well" with a number of "strongly interested" parties.