Printing firm sues for damages over TCH restructuring

Wednesday 20 March 2013 22.41
TCH was placed into receivership by its largest lender AIB
TCH was placed into receivership by its largest lender AIB

A printing company has sued for damages after losing a lucrative contract to publish several newspapers following the restructuring of the Thomas Crosbie media group.

Webprint Concepts Ltd, Mahon Point, Cork, claims the loss of its 15-year contract valued at €45m arose from "a premeditated plan" put together over some months.

This culminated in "a flurry of activity" earlier this month involving the sale of the Irish Examiner and other titles to Landmark Media Investments and a petition to wind up TCH, now in receivership.

Webprint employs 50 people and has printed the TCH titles since 2006 with eight years left on the contract.

It says it depended on the contract for 70% of its income and claims one of the principal objectives of the restructuring was to enable two TCH companies evade their obligations under the contract.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly today granted an application by Declan McGrath, for Webprint, to fast-track the action in the Commercial Court and fixed a provisional trial date for 8 October.

The case is against Thomas Crosbie Printers Ltd (TCP); Thomas Crosbie Holdings Ltd; Bontbury Ltd (trading as Landmark Media Investments), Allied Irish Banks plc; receiver Kieran Wallace; Irish Times Ltd (which secured the contract to print the titles); Thomas Patrick Crosbie; and Alan Crosbie.

All of the defendants consented to the case being fast-tracked but several indicated they may seek orders requiring Webprint to provide security for costs of the case.

Mr McGrath indicated any such applications will be strongly resisted, arguing it was "clear" that any financial difficulties of his client were caused by wrongdoing of the defendants.

Cian Ferriter SC, for the Crosbie side, said Webprint's contract was with TCP which was hopelessly insolvent and subject of a winding up application to be heard next month.

It was "quite likely" his side would seek security for costs as the action was fundamentally misconceived and there was "a big leap between being pre-planned and being illegal", he said.

Mr MacCann, for The Irish Times, said it denied claims of encouraging a breach of contract and there was "a strong prospect" it would also seek security for costs.

Declan Murphy, for AIB, said it was not at all apparent there was a legal basis for the action against the bank.

TCH was placed into receivership by its largest lender, AIB, and Mr Wallace of KPMG was appointed receiver.

On the same day, it was acquired by Landmark Media Investments, owned by Thomas and Ted Crosbie.

As part of the restructuring, an examiner was appointed to Post Publications Ltd, publishers of the Sunday Business Post.

The Irish Times is to print Landmark's titles and has a deal with Post Publications Ltd to print the Sunday Business Post.