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Deserving a Fresh Start —Cagle

May 2008
THE BIGGEST news story of 2008 has also produced one of the most deplorable subplots of the year.

As you are all well aware by now, Quebecor World finds itself fighting to stay in business, having filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States, as well as reorganizational protection in Canada. While the prognosis appears good that the company will survive, there has been some negative fallout.

Several clients have left or are considering leaving the Montreal-based printer, putting printing in the hands of Quebecor World’s competitors. Business is business, you might say, and print buyers have to act in their company’s own best interests. I can’t argue with that. Though I can’t help but presume, however, these same print buyers would appreciate Quebecor World showing them loyalty were the shoe on the other foot.

My issue, however, is with Quebecor World’s parent company, Quebecor Inc. Publications TVA, Quebec province’s largest consumer magazine publisher, is a division of Quebecor Media which, along with Quebecor World, is an operating subsidiary of Quebecor Inc. TVA uses Quebecor World to print its stable of magazines.

It was recently reported that TVA was pondering sending the printing of several of its magazine titles to competitors of Quebecor World. The reasons cited were “practical and logistic.”

In short, I find this utterly appalling and horrendously disloyal. Talk about jamming the hand that raised you into the rollers of a Sunday.

People, please help me here. Feel free to e-mail me your perspective. Am I way off base? Is there more than meets the eye?

Quebecor Inc. was largely made possible due to the sweat and tears of the printing business. And while I theoretically have no problem with the parent wanting to turn the subsidiary loose when all’s said and done, pulling jobs from Quebecor World at this point flies in the face of all the printer is trying to do in order to remain solvent and viable.

One buyer familiar with the ongoing saga, upon reading the report, put it in plain, simple terms when he said, “That is cruel! They are doing everything they can to kill (Quebecor World). How do you counter that with your current customers and prospects?”

Quebecor World has done a yeoman’s job of adding new jobs and extending existing pacts in the midst of the bankruptcy period. A few have been lost, or may go elsewhere, so what does it say to other print buyers when a stepbrother says it’s considering going elsewhere for practical reasons? If your parent company doesn’t have faith in you, why would another print buyer? The answer: The buyers are smarter than that and know where the true blame lies.

Quebecor World deserves a fresh start, on its own and away from Quebecor Inc. It has some talented people at the local level, and solid group leaders like Doron Grosman and Kevin Clarke. But most observers agree that the company has been a victim of poor management from the mother ship; the revolving door that has been the top position at Quebecor World, resembling the New York Yankees’ managerial post in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Thousands of good, hard-working people need this reorganization to go smoothly. There’s no reason for Quebecor Inc. to undermine what the printing arm is trying to accomplish, especially at such a delicate juncture in its existence. It’s already been made clear that Quebecor Inc. doesn’t want to be associated with World and is asking for the name to be dropped.

It says here that the sooner Quebecor World can disassociate itself from Quebecor Inc., the faster it can embark on a brighter future. When you’re trying to get back on your feet, the last thing you need is a stab in the back.

DO THAT MATH AGAIN: Dropped in on Dresden, Germany, last month for a KBA press conference and marveled at not only how bad a beating the U.S. dollar takes on the exchange rate with the Euro, but how much more expensive everything is in Europe, or at least this part of Germany. It would seem Germans need to have an annual income of €100,000 just to break even.

Alas, that’s hardly the case. Some of the slums on the outskirts of Dresden resemble chicken coops. So sad to know people live there...

When I saw the price of gas, my mood brightened, temporarily. I was then reminded that the €1.30 rate was not for gallons, but liters. That’s roughly $10 a gallon. Yikes!

SPEAKING OF EUROPE: I’d like to take this opportunity to vouch for the reputation of Americans. On the world stage, we’ve been called “ugly” for various reasons: our nation’s politics, inability to speak foreign languages, etc. But, apparently we’ve set the global pace for manners.

At a buffet dinner in Germany that featured journalists and guests from more than 50 nations, several U.S. and Canadian folk returned from the buffet line shaking their heads. Apparently it is not out of line to cut in front of people, or even bump into them, without as much as an “excuse me” or an apologetic nod. And this wasn’t an isolated incident; oafish behavior was prevalent throughout the night.

It seems the concept of forming a “line” is strictly a North American phenomenon. PI

—Erik Cagle

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