MacGregor leaves printer suddenly

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The Independent Online
SIR IAN MACGREGOR, best known for wielding the axe at British Coal, has 'ceased' to be chairman of HunterPrint, the troubled magazine printer announced yesterday.

His sudden departure, disclosed after the stock market's close, prompted speculation that HunterPrint may require a further refinancing, the second in as many years, due to grim trading conditions.

It is understood HunterPrint has not been achieving internal performance targets, causing concern among institutional investors. These include PosTel and Fidelity Investments.

Sir John Wheeler, MP, who has been appointed caretaker chairman, said: 'He is nearly 80 and has had a heart bypass operation. I don't think I need to go any further than that.'

Tony Caplin, the group's chief executive, said that Sir Ian's departure had not been prompted by boardroom disagreements.

'There is no row and no story about his departure,' he said.

Sir Ian is believed to be away on holiday. His secretary said she was not aware that he had ceased to be employed by HunterPrint.

Sir Ian, 81 next month, recently increased his stake in HunterPrint to about 5.2 million shares, amounting to about 3 per cent of its equity. The stake was worth pounds 309,600 at last night's closing price of 6p.

With an annual salary of pounds 250,000 he could receive compensation of close to pounds 1m.

Sir Ian joined HunterPrint in January last year as part of a pounds 14m rescue plan. The group's problems stemmed from a high level of debt - amounting to 140 per cent of its net assets - production difficulties and the recession.

Although the new management under Sir Ian has slashed costs, reducing staff by 130 to about 650, trading has continued to be tough. In June the company reported a pounds 3.8m loss for the half-year to 31 March, compared with a deficit of pounds 4.7m in the previous year.

HunterPrint is the second troubled company from which Sir Ian has departed in recent months. Until May he was also chairman of Mountleigh, the property group that has gone into receivership.

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