My phone rang: a woman, an unfamiliar voice. In clear, dry tones she introduced herself and explained the situation.
As many will have heard, Lion Hudson has submitted a notice of intent to appoint administrators. 35 staff have been made redundant, including myself, and 18 remain. A long struggle with debt has brought about this situation, together with gradual changes in publishing practice around the world which meant that the bedrock of the enterprise, the multiple language co-editions, was less viable than before. Ironically the budget for the first nine months of the year had been exceeded: the company still has significant strengths.
Essentially the company continues. The forward programme, the output of books, may be somewhat slowed, and some big colour projects are likely to be put on temporary hold, but key commissioning staff have been retained, to maintain and build the lists. Authors will still get paid, and their books remain on sale.
It is possible the company will be sold - despite its debts it remains a valuable entity, with a profitable backlist - and we will know in the next few weeks whether this is likely to happen. The alternative is that the company will trade its way back to independence, settling accounts with creditors over the next 15 months or so. This decision is in the hands of the administrators.
Over the course of 40 years in publishing I have been made redundant twice, and have twice had to implement a redundancy programme, which gave me much greater heartache. Publishing is a marginal business, as a moment's reflection on once-flourishing imprints will tell you: it is not many years since Kingsway ruled the world of evangelical books. And companies recover: SPCK, now a powerful force, was on its financial uppers not so long ago.
I grieve for my younger colleagues who have lost their jobs. I grieve for the truncating of a talented culture full of cheerfulness and determination and enthusiasm. It takes years for good practice to develop, and a moment to cast it down. Any redundancy programme is inherently wasteful of skills and social capital.
It’s a bereavement, of course: the loss of the team. And, in my case, a severing of history, because I started the Monarch imprint in 1988. But, having got over the shock – the anger is another matter, for a different time frame – I am starting to wonder what God has next in store. The Lord makes all things new, if I can say that without sounding like an irritating preacher. My very capable colleagues will find new jobs. If it is allowed the opportunity Lion Hudson will rebuild.
And I? I have ideas, but no clear sense yet of direction. For a little while I am going to make things out of wood, and ponder, and read, and pray.
If anyone has specific questions I will do my best to respond. Just at present I have plenty of time.
Tony Collins worked with Lion Hudson plc as publisher and editor since it was first set up in 2004. He is author of Taking My God for a Walk (Monarch).