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Harland Simon Becomes Prima Systems in U.S.; Independent U.S. Firm Emerges from Bankrupt British Group; Former Managers Revive U.K. Company under Same Name

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Harland Simon Becomes Prima Systems in U.S.; Independent U.S. Firm Emerges from Bankrupt British Group; Former Managers Revive U.K. Company under Same Name

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Independent U.S. firm emerges from bankrupt British group; former managers revive U.K. company under same name

THE CONTROL SYSTEMS division of Britain's Harland Simon group was bought last fall from its receivers by former chairman Roy Ashman and two Harland Simon managers, Jim Reynolds and Tony White, who co-led the buyout and "confirmed Ashman's role," according to a Dec. 1 report in Londons Financial Times.

As a part of the group, Harland Simon Library Systems was also placed in receivership, according to a notice mailed by administrative receivers Touche Ross & Co., London.

A letter obtained by E&P, signed by Tony White and dated Nov. 30, relates that White and Reynolds head a management team that have bought Control Systems' business and assets and are operating under the company's original name, Harland Simon Ltd. It says the firm "will honor its commitments to the entire work force" to ensure customers full design, manufacture, sales and service support.

Though the letter makes no mention of Ashman, the FT reported that he is a non-executive director of the acquiring firm and, according to White," 'could well' be a non-executive director of the renamed company." A former Harland manager called Ashman "a very hands-on person."

White told the FT that Ashman had provided financial backing but was not the only investor. No purchase price was disclosed. The FT reported that Ashman had not returned calls seeking an interview.

The Harland Simon Automation Systems Inc. affiliate in Kirkland, Wash., a business formerly within Hatland Simons Automation Systems division, now operates as Prima Systems, adopting the acronym for its Printing Industry Management and Automation products.

In Kirkland, Ed Sumpter continues as president of Prima Systems. John Sumpter, his son and Prima's marketing communications manager, updated E&P on his company's status.

Company as compensation

Other than talks about a couple of possible joint newspaper projects, said Sumpter, "We aren't associated at all with. Harland Simon Ltd., the new group in England."

"Prima Systems was formed out of necessity on one hand" to complete mailroom work at the Toronto Star, "and out of opportunity on the other to continue to pursue the market with the products that we developed here in North America" he said. Those products, he added, are primarily PRIMA-MR at Toronto and control systems for automated guided vehicles.

Through agreement with Harland Simon and the receivers, said Sumpter, the Star was "protected to make sure they get their system installed." Of the options available to it, he said, the Star chose Prima to complete the contracted work.

"Ed Sumpter was owed deferred compensation by Harland Simon, which they were unable to fulfill," said the younger Sumpter, and the Star had the rights to the software in the event that the vendor failed in its obligations. As a result, Ed Sumpter acquired the rights to Harland Simon Automation Systems Inc.'s fixed assets, its name and its current and future projects.

In effect, the Star is licensing rights to the software to Prima for use elsewhere until its own project is completed, at which time it will release the rights to Prima, according to Sumpter.

Prior to its former parent group's financial unraveling, Prima announced the sale of a totalizer system to the Orlando Sentinel. The system was developed by the Providence (R.I.) Journal and later marketed by Harland Simon but, since striking out on its own, Prima is now in negotiations to acquire rights to sell the system.

Harland Simon, said Sumpter, "was technically in default to Providence on the contract," which in the meantime has licensed the totalizer to Orlando, where Prima is installing it.

A lawsuit filed two years ago by Lamb Grays Harbor Co. against Harland SimonGroup and its U.S. subsidiaries "hasn't gone anywhere. …

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