Hills Banners: “Disgusted by reporter’s tactics”

Zion Graphics and Hills Banners have reaffirmed they do not have a working relationship, while Hills Banners now claims that Buzzfeed reporter Alice Workman claimed to be representing Zion when enquiring about prices.

 

Founded in 1992, and renamed to Zion Graphics within a year, the company first operated as a graphic designer, after which it added a Heidelberg 72, and then prepress capabilities, operating as a full-fledged commercial printer until 2007, when it sold its equipment, narrowly dodging the GFC. The company has been operating in the print management space since, and currently operates out of Limantono’s home.

 

Buzzfeed published an article this week alleging that Zion Graphics has completed hundreds of thousands of dollars of print work for the NSW Liberal Party, and MP Alex Hawke, while Limantono is the president of the Bella Vista branch, which helps hold the balance of power for Hawke. It also alleges that Limantono had donated $30,000 to the Liberal Party over the past eight years.

 

A second article on Buzzfeed notes that nine other Liberal party politicians source print work through Zion Graphics, including Federal families and social services minister Paul Fletcher; federal backbencher Julian Leeser; NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet; NSW minister for mental health, women and ageing Tanya Davies; NSW minister for Western Sydney Stuart Ayres; NSW minister for innovation and better regulation Matt Kean; NSW member for Seven Hills Mark Taylor; and NSW member for Baulkham Hills David Elliott.

 

Both articles, written by Alice Workman, use a discrepancy between prices charged by Zion Graphics and quoted by the printer Buzzfeed claims Zion outsources work to, Hills Banners, showing a mark up of 45 per cent.

 

Australian Printer understands a typical markup for a print management company may be in the 20-25 per cent range, also depending on the margin added on top.

 

Hills Banners denies ever completing print work for Zion Graphics, while Zion Graphics denies ever sending print work to Hills Banners.

 

Fred Fleury, owner, Hills Banners, explains, “We have never had them on the books, never dealt with Zion Graphics, not even a customer with a Z. If we did do work for them, I would say, because it would make no difference.

 

“A lot of the print management companies we do work for are multi-million customers without a single printer. It is totally legitimate.

 

“Print management is procurement. We started off exactly the same, then bought equipment.”

 

Australian Printer reported on the contents of the legal letter addressed to Alice Workman from Zion Graphics yesterday, alleging defamation, which included the statement that Hills Banners had previously done print work for a company called Xian Graphics, while Buzzfeed noting it confirmed Hills Banners had done work for Zion Graphics.

 

Speaking to Fleury, he says the company in question was called Xi Graphics, with one quote having been provided for them on October 17, 2017. He says this led to the confusion surrounding Hills Banners having confirmed it did business with Zion.

 

On the reporter’s phone call to the company, he says, “Alice called us trying to order some brochures, when she called we laughed because the questions she was asking were not print related.

 

“When we asked if she was after two page, eight page, etc, she said we will get back to you.

 

“No prices were given, so I do not know where she got those prices from.

 

“We thought it was an odd call on Monday, and next thing we knew there was a write up.”

 

Fleury also contends that Alice Workman purported to be calling on behalf of Zion Graphics for the quote, saying, “I am disgusted by the tactic that Alice employed, she sent me a few emails yesterday where we went backwards and forwards.

 

“I said you did not make it clear you were from Buzzfeed, we would have checked the system.

 

“Ahmed [the employee who took the call] wrote down Alice from Zion Graphics when he answered. Any sales rep will tell you the same thing, when you get a call you write down the name and company.

 

“I do not intend to take any legal action, we have only been referenced too, we have not done anything wrong.

 

“She is saying we did work for them, if we did, so what. If we did the job, there is nothing wrong with that.

 

“Sometimes you win jobs, sometimes you lose them, people will offer higher or lower prices.”

 

Ahmed of Hills Banners yesterday told Australian Printer, “We got a phone call from Buzzfeed, a colleague of mine took the call, I also talked to them. They did bring up Zion Graphics, but we only discussed brochures with them.”

 

Australian Printer sought comment from Alice Workman regarding the call, but did not get a response prior to publication.

 

Hills Banners do not own an offset press, and specialise in banner production.

 

Fleury explains, “We are a large format printer, but if a customer calls us and asks for brochures, we are not going to turn that down, just because we do not have the equipment for it. We normally go to CMYKhub in that situation.

 

“I called Rudy Limantono after all this, we had Sky, Channel 9, Print21, and ABC News on the phone. It has nothing to do with us, there is no need to be mentioned.

 

“I do not deal with him, I do not know him, if he was to be a customer, so be it, but there are no questions for me to answer because we have never dealt with each other.

 

“We do a lot of trade work, a lot of times we do not know where the work has come from.”

 

When Australian Printer asked if it was possible Zion Graphics had passed on work to them through a third company, Fleury said he would not know.

 

Fleury has been in the industry since 2008, from recruitment, to print management, to then owning his business. When asked if he anticipates more work following national interest in his company, he said, “The positive is that the story lets people know we are cheap. Even if Zion Graphics is dodgy, we do not want to be seen in the same light.

 

“Will it have a positive affect? I hope so, I hope it has a positive effect for the industry, it will teach people to see a printer who knows what they are doing, and charges less. Print managers are always more expensive, there is no doubt about that.

 

“I started in 2008, and have been in the industry since then. We started doing our own print work some two years ago.

 

“A typical markup is in excess of 20 per cent, when I was in print management we quoted 24.5 per cent, and any margin on top of that. The savings are associated based on aggregation, what you pay a print management company for is their intelligence in the marketplace, and how to get things for a cheap price.

 

“Zion Graphics seems to have charged a 45 per cent markup based on the Buzzfeed story. Every printer will tell you the same thing, the margins are not that high in print, especially in large run stuff. The price difference from one to the next is marginal.

 

“The worst part is I am not a Liberal voter, I am Labor, in sales I do not discriminate, they can be Greens, Labour, Libs, whatever.

 

“I have no association with the Liberal Party.”

 

Australian Printer spoke to other local printers in the Castle Hill area, with one, who did not want to be named, noting, “To be fair, there are a lot of people in the industry without machinery or staff. They keep the IP and client lists from their former business, and work out of a home office. Over the last 10 years, our customer base has went from being around 30 per cent print brokers, to now 50 per cent.”

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