BT drops Madejski to print phone book abroad

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The Independent Online

BT is to begin printing The Phone Book abroad for the first time in the history of the directory. The telecoms group has awarded the contract for the annual print run of 22 million copies to a Spanish company.

The move comes as a blow to John Madejski, the printing millionaire and owner of Reading football club, whose company Goodhead Group has lost the contract after more than eight years. There are to be job cuts among the 180 staff at the printing plant in Colchester.

BT has served the company with three months' notice that printing of the directories will be transferred to Einsa Print International, based near Madrid.

The contract was decided entirely on price, it is understood. Goodhead complained that the short period of notice meant it would be unlikely to find additional work to use up the printing capacity established in Colchester for the BT contract. Mr Madejski ranks 153rd in the Sunday Times Rich List, worth an estimated £325m, and was romantically linked last year to the television presenter Cilla Black. Reading, the club he rescued from bankruptcy 16 years ago, is still running at a loss but its recent form makes it virtually certain to win promotion to the Premiership this season. He made his fortune as founder of the Auto Trader publishing empire, netting £174m when it was sold in 1998.

Goodhead, the printing business, was taken private by Mr Madejski in 2000, and the company made £2.5m pre-tax profit in the year to May 2004, its most recently filed accounts show. Benhamgoodheadprint, the Colchester subsidiary, made a profit of just £200,000.

Einsa prints a range of directories, magazines and catalogues including Spain's Paginas Amarillas.

BT publishes 171 local editions of The Phone Book, which can trace its history back to a directory published by The Telephone Company in January 1880, containing 250 names.

Since selling off the Yellow Pages, now part of Yell Group, BT has bolstered the content of The Phone Book, which it now styles a "3-in-1 directory" featuring classified advertising as well as business and residential numbers. It is working hard to attract more revenue from the books, attracting local business to advertise in preference to using the Yellow Pages.