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Almost a year to the day after Melbourne print business Bambra Press went into voluntary administration, John Wanless will once again take over the business, as it emerges from its DOCA (deed of company arrangement), following a near unanimous vote from creditors to accept 20c in the dollar.

Back in control: John Wanless owns Bambra again

The company is currently in a variation of its DOCA, with creditors set to receive a first and final payout on 25 May, after which the company will revert from the administrator back to Wanless.

John Wanless, said, “It’s great for the business to get a second chance – rewarding the staff who remained focused through the difficult period."

"We are operating at about 60 per cent of the sales of two years ago, it is a slimmer operation."

Administrator Romanis Cant is requesting all claims of debt be sent to it by Friday, 21 May. The estimated amount in the DOCA fund will be $1.75m. This will be used to pay creditors, the adminstrators and various other costs. Unsecured creditors will receive 20c in the dollar.

Wanless says make good repayments to creditors will not be limited to what is in the DOCA.

Some rival Melbourne printers though are less than impressed, claiming they are now having to compete against a company that has been able shed significant debt through its DOCA, while they have been paying suppliers and other creditors in full. Wanless says he has been getting support from the local industry.

The Bambra that is emerging from the DOCA has slimmed down, with some 22 staff moving on since last year, leaving it with around 32 employees in its Port Melbourne production centre.

Wanless has been working in the business since it hit the skids on 22 May last year. At the time, he said a Covid-related 80 per cent drop in sales, together with a few significant bad debts, had left it stranded, and he couldn't see a way back without restructuring. The DOCA was enacted at the end of August, with the variation coming at the end of March. At the time he called in the administrators last year, Wanless said he believed the company would continue, but in a reduced size, which is what has happened.

Bambra offers offset and digital print, as well as letterpress, signage, binding and embellishing from its Port Melbourne premises. It has top of the line equipment.

Wanless joined the business 28 years ago and built it from a suburban print shop into an industrial powerhouse. He took full ownership in 2006, resisting Geon's overtures at the time. Since he took over, the company made several acquisitions, including Atrium Studios, followed by Eclipse Graphics. Then came PrintWize, followed by Allardice Prepress. Perhaps the most significant, certainly the largest acquisition, came in 2015 with rival McKellar Renown, which he bought from the Norgate family. However, the loss of a major stamp contract soon after put a dampener on that purchase.

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