The assets of independent publishing houses Black Dog Publishing and sister company Artifice Books on Architecture, Art and Design (ABAAD), went into limited company liquidation last month, have been acquired by global contract publishers St James’s House Media Group.

Publishing in London

Black Dog Publishing and Artifice Books were independent presses based in London, near Company Debt’s Paul Street London Office; the former was a major name in visual arts publishing in the UK, collaborating with international artists and high profile organisations, such as the British Council, the Royal College of Art and the Royal Society of Sculptors. Due to cash flow problems and considerable creditor pressure, the visual arts publishers ceased trading on 5 January, which forced the company into voluntary liquidation. All 22 employees were made redundant.

In a statement, the liquidators said that “due to the solid reputations of the companies within the industry that they were able to sell the assets of the two businesses shortly after being appointed”.

Black Dog Publishing was founded by Director Duncan McCorquodale in 1993 and incorporated in 1995. The arts and culture press produced a broad range of illustrated books on contemporary art, design, film, music, fashion and photography, and had its bookshop, Work, at 308 Essex Road, Islington, London.

Sister company Artifice Books was incorporated in 2011 and traded from the same premises. McCorquodale, a former lecturer at University College London, was the sole shareholder and sole director of both publishing houses.

Dog Publishing and Artifice Books supplied bookshops, galleries and organisations with high end illustrated books. Initially, Black Dog’s revenue was based on retail sales, but the company went on to develop a client portfolio in contract publishing with domestic and international clients. Contract publishing later became the core part of the business and its primary income stream.

As prospective work-in-progress looked positive, McCorquodale took out loans to meet the needs of the business. However, not all prospective work came to fruition, which caused serious cash flow problems. Against a backdrop of staggering rent rises in London, the publishers moved from Acton Street, Clerkenwell, to a new location at 308 Essex Street. However, the move proved to be problematic for a number of reasons, which had a detrimental impact on business and worsened the company’s cash flow problems.

The statement of affairs document shows that Black Dog Publishing owed unsecured creditors £756,672, including HMRC. The tax authority was owed £48,059 whilst Islington council was owed £6,925 in arrears. In addition, the 22 employees were each owed more than a month’s wages, totalling £65,572, whilst McCorquodale himself was owed £189,889.

St James’s House Media Group Communications is based in Finchley and produces up-market coffee table books for clients, such as the Rolls-Royce Owners’ Club and the Royal Air Force. Director Ben Duffy told trade publication Print Week: “Our trade arm is called SJH Publishing and it produces celebrity autobiographies. We saw Black Dog as a natural fit to expand upon the books that they produce.”

Duffy added: “The plan is to follow the same contract publishing model that Black Dog had previously been operating.”

Moving forward, the acquired companies will be known as Black Dog Press and Artifice Press and will be headed up by Anna Danby, who is currently Head of Creative at the company.