Panther staff redeployed to mystery business

Greg Beech, owner and managing director of Panther Print has come forward, saying the 29 year old business went into liquidation after a long struggle, due to rising costs and shrinking profits.

The north Brisbane based company had around 10 staff upon closure, with some now being transferred to another printer. Beech declined to comment on who the company was or the exact number of staff, but did say they would travel to a new business in the region.

Beech says, “It is a common story among printers. We had low margins, a couple of bad debts, shrinking profits, and power prices and paper prices were going up.

“We closed on Thursday. I had been trying to keep the shop open for as long as I could. I had been trying to sell off our larger press to pay off the staff’s supers.

“We are working with a new entity in Brisbane, some of the staff have been transferred over. The boss offered me a spot, but I am not staying on with the new company. I am leaving the industry, I am 55 and I do not know what I am going to do, but I do not want to be in print at this time. I also did not want to be seen as doing phoenixing.

“At the most, we had 18 staff at one time, we had to reduce it down to 10. Even though we were struggling after that, I could not reduce staff further, I could not afford to pay them out and give them their long service leave and other entitlements. I had one staff member who has been with us for around 10 years.

[Related: Panther Print goes under]

“There is no equipment left, all of the assets have been sold. In the end, I only had a guillotine, but that was also sold off. I used all the money to pay off my staff’s supers.

“The debts I had within the industry were to three paper companies, JL Lennard and Heidelberg. I tried to pay all of them. I took out personal cards to try and pay off the paper companies. I still have debts owing on three cards.

“I knew it was going to be closing for a while. The landlord worked with me but in the end, he did not need an A1 press in his space and I had to sell it.”

Danny Dougherty, Qld print division secretary with the AMWU says, "I went to the site this morning. There was a five colour press being pulled apart by a contractor there, to be sent off to China. It looked like a big job, it has to be dusted and cleaned out. The contractor did not know anything, they seemed to have been hired by a third party.

“I have not spoken to the owner, I can only hope all of the workers have received their entitlements.”

The company, located in Stafford, claimed to be one of Brisbane’s more established offset commercial printers. Prior to liquidation, it had Heidelberg one, two and five colour presses, along with an in-house finishing department.

Walter Kuhn, owner of nearby Kuhn Corp and president of the PIAA, founded Panther in 1989, before selling it to Les Beech, father of Greg Beech.

Beech says, “We had been trying to keep going but it has been tough since the GFC. It was my mum and dad’s company, so I had been trying to hold on.

“I am past the depressed stage. It is my identity. In Brisbane, we had a good name among other printers. My pride has copped a fair bashing.

[Related: STS into liquidation]

“I feel bad that I have not been able to pay off all of my debts.

“I would have thought it would be to my detriment, but we turned down jobs because they were priced too low. Printing is an industry where we invest in technology but drop prices and give terms. I tried to change our business model, we bought another printing press a year and a half ago, we tried to adapt to pricing going around.

“Low pricing can work as a model but not everyone can do it and the public expects the same work for less because printers keep dropping prices.

“Printers invest and we work overtime to get jobs done. Brokers can drop you even after we have already done the work, for a quote $30 less down the street. And I have two print brokers that owe me money.

“It is unsustainable and frustrating. How do you fight that? I worked hard for 30 years, but I do not have the answer.

“I am not bitter and angry, I am disappointed and I am sorry to leave the industry in this way. I would have preferred a different ending, but it is a tough game.”

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