Ad slump sends Firm into receivership

Edinburgh magazine group Firm Publications has been forced into receivership after advertising revenues for its four titles plummeted.

More than a dozen interested parties are looking at the company’s four titles, including media houses and venture capitalists, and it is hoped that all the jobs will be secured.

Publisher Steven McColl set up the company four years ago with Bill Frain-Bell. Its initial publications were flagship title Firm, a magazine for the Scottish legal profession, and Catering in Scotland. Last autumn, financed by a grant from the Department of Trade and Industry, the company added Property Executive and Business and Finance to its portfolio.

Said McColl: “We simply reached a stage where there was no more money in the bank. In last month’s run of magazines the advertising revenues absolutely floored.

“We had all sorts of bills and cash commitments, and we needed about £150,000 to keep going. But when we tried to get fresh investment and borrow more money we couldn’t.

“It is really difficult to get any form of investment at the moment. And the advertising market in Scotland is very tight.”

McColl said Firm would have broken into profit by the end of the year but explained: “Ultimately it’s all about cash flow.”

Firm was highly dependent on advertising revenues because the bulk of its print run was sent free to a targeted readership. McColl and FrainBell have not paid themselves since October and have ploughed in thousands of pounds of their own money – much of it borrowed.

Philip Healey, the publisher of Scottish magazine Caledonia, who was a 25 per cent shareholder, will have to write off an investment of £250,000 he made in the company last year.

McColl and Frain-Bell are handling the receivership of the company themselves with advice from Andrew Fern of accountants AIS.

By Hamish Mackay

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