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

·Editor-in-Chief, Lifestyle
·7-min read
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.

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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)
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