COVID-19: Former Blu Inc staff members shocked over company's closure

Blu Inc magazine titles Her World, Marie Claire, Shape. (PHOTO: Blu Inc Media)
Blu Inc magazine titles Her World, Marie Claire, and Shape. (PHOTO: Blu Inc Media)

Updated on 1 May with comments by former Blu Inc staff members.

Malaysia publishing house Blu Inc Media ceased its operations on 30 April, laying off more than 200 staff across 20 titles.

Prior to the closure, the company was one of the largest publishers in Malaysia and had operated for almost four decades.

Among the magazine titles that Blu Inc published that were affected were Cleo, Cosmopolitan, Female, Harper’s Bazaar, Her World, Home & Decor, Icon, Malaysian Women’s Weekly, Marie Claire, Nuyou, Shape, The Peak, and Malay titles like Eh!, Jelita, Glam, Glam Deko, Glam Lelaki, and Her Inspirasi.

In a circular obtained by Yahoo Lifestyle SEA, Datin Azliza Ahmad Tajuddin, CEO of Blu Inc, announced the closure on 30 April. “We are in a period where there is little visibility on when we can see recovery from the economic turmoil resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Our business has already been under tremendous challenge from digital disruption over the past few years. While we have made increasing investment to build our digital capabilities, it is still unclear whether we have gained sufficient traction while the losses continue to increase.”

“With the current Movement Control Order (MCO) to contain COVID-19, the losses continued for the months of March and April and this trend is expected to continue for the next few months. It is uncertain if we will be able to see any light at the end of the tunnel.”

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) Magazines, a wholly-owned subsidiary of media group SPH, acquired shares in Blu Inc in September 2004 for S$32.9 million and is one of the main shareholders.

According to Blu Inc’s LinkedIn page, “what started out in 1974 as the Jack Chia-MPH Group in Singapore eventually went through ownership changes to evolve into Blu Inc, which came into the stable of SPH Magazines.”

In Malaysia, Blu Inc was set up as a joint venture with SPH Magazines. The publishing house had gone into strategic business partnerships with Conde Nast, American Media Inc, Weider and Hearst. It had also acquired titles like Magazine World and ACP.

In response to queries from Yahoo Lifestyle SEA, a spokesperson for SPH said: “We are one of the shareholders of the company and the (magazine) titles are not joint ventures. Blu Inc licenses titles from us as well as other licensors.”

After the news broke, a number of former Blu Inc writers and editors affected by the sudden closure shared their bittersweet tributes on social media.

View this post on Instagram

I have no words left to say - I've said it all on my FB. But I'm gonna emo a bit more here and tell you that this was where it all started back in June 2006. This bunch of darlings was my first team in Seventeen. I simply wrote in late one night then Charlotte replied the next morning, and not long after, I left advertising to become part of this family as a Beauty Writer - which I only discovered on the first day of my job. Funny cos back then I ain't no beauty person and when they gave me this job I was like ??? Anyway it was a sink or swim sitch so I got the hang of it within 3mths and doing beauty became a breeze since. I've been through it all with these girls - the teenage and young adult phase in life - where I stayed for about 1.5y before I decided to take a sabbatical. The best 1.5y of my working life there, cos it's not really work when you come in to do what you love, have fun with your friends and play dress up on certain Fridays, right? Half year later, I came back and joined Female where I stayed for 3y as a Beauty Ed. It was my dream job and one that didn't exist before I joined, but honestly if I didn't randomly pack up and move away, I probably wouldn't last this long or have been here today. After 'doing my own thing' for 4years, somehow BluInc found a way to let me back into its heart where I've been there for close to 5years now. My longest job in one place ever, but it didn't seem that long when you're enjoying what you do with a star team at that. I'll leave that story for another day but I just wanna express my sincere appreciation to everyone who's supported us to this day, to those I've crossed paths with at the most random places or events, those who've always showed us their kindness and compassion, and those who continue to shower us with love to this very moment. I love you all 💖 #bluinc #17forever #17allgrownup #bffs #family #love #suyineedsinstagram #theend

A post shared by YML เจสสิก้า (@heyyml) on

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, two of the ex-Blu Inc staff members who were made redundant by the closure expressed their shock and concerns to Yahoo Lifestyle SEA today (1 May).

One writer revealed that there were already murmurs of a retrenchment or “voluntary separation scheme” just before the MCO in Malaysia was enforced on 18 March.

“Everyone received the memo yesterday (30 April) and the news came out of the blue...We were assured remuneration will be paid based on each individual’s notice period,” she said. There will be a separate memo to be sent to Blu Inc’s clients, she added.

Her team members also expressed regret for the closure. For now, they are waiting for the next company notice to inform them about the collection of their belongings in the office.

“I am thinking of the staff, and we are all still sinking in the news,” she said.

Another editor was worried that staff members might not get their outstanding pay. If this were to happen, she believes some of the staff members might take action by reporting to the Department of Labour.

Yahoo Lifestyle SEA has reached out to Azliza for comment.

Blu Inc memo. (PHOTO: Yahoo Lifestyle SEA)
Blu Inc memo. (PHOTO: Yahoo Lifestyle SEA)