View from City Road: The Harland mess deepens

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The Independent Online
THE TROUBLES of Harland Simon have deepened once again. The company yesterday told its long-suffering employees it could not pay them on time this month, though it hoped to pay them next week. Only last month, staff accepted an enforced pay cut.

Harland makes and installs sophisticated control systems used in newspaper printing, a business that has given it colourful links with Asil Nadir and Robert Maxwell. An unbroken record of growth won it the title of Britain's most successful company and a market value of more than pounds 100m. Until the music stopped.

The story includes a dubious investment, heavy losses, qualified accounts, the departure of the chairman and managing director, suspension of its shares, and its bank's refusal to release pounds 8m of disposal proceeds. Harland has consistently failed to provide a full explanation of these and other calamities.

The role of Hambros Bank, Harland's financial adviser in all this, bears some scrutiny. David Mahony, Harland's chairman, is an industrial adviser to Hambros. So is Sir Ian Morrow, recently recruited as chairman of Harland's 'executive committee' after Hambros failed to find anyone prepared to replace Mr Mahony as chairman. Strangely, neither Sir Ian nor Tony McCann, Harland's new chief executive, has joined the company's board - though Sir Ian has said this is not because of any nervousness about taking on a director's responsibilities. Despite its close connections, Hambros is now refusing to discuss Harland. Few have emerged with credit from this mess.

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