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Last Updated: Friday, 25 April, 2003, 16:55 GMT 17:55 UK
Last chance for famed publisher
Iris Murdoch
Duckworth published John Bayley's best-selling memoir of Iris Murdoch (pictured)
Duckworth, the independent publisher that printed books by Virginia Woolf and John Bayley's memoir of wife Iris Murdoch, is awaiting a buyer after going into administration.

The deadline for the interest in buying the company expired on Friday evening, and the company's liquidators are said to have received offers from over 60 parties.

The publisher, which was set up in 1898 by Virginia Woolf's half-brother Gerard, is seeking a buyer to take over the whole operation, including its back-catalogue.

"We want the company to remain intact, and we want to take the name Duckworth forward into the future. It deserves that," said chief operating officer Gillian Hawkins on Friday.

She said there was "always a risk" the company's back catalogue, which includes works by Woolf, DH Lawrence, Anthony Powell, Beryl Bainbridge, Oliver Sacks and John Bayley, might be sold piecemeal to a number of parties.

Rent raise

But she said the reason the publisher had gone into voluntary administration was because it wanted to ensure the company's name was safeguarded.

It applied for administration on 28 March. The company's falling profits - from 1.6m in 2001 to 780,000 last year - was reported to be part of the problem.

But Hawkins said a major factor was the increase in the Soho-based company's rents from 42,000 to 76,000 a year.

Hawkins said it was hoped none of Duckworth's 10 staff would lose their jobs if the company was sold.

Duckworth was widely regarded as one of the last great independent names in English publishing.

In 1998, it celebrated a centenary at London's Dorchester Hotel with a lavish lunch attended by author Iris Murdoch.

In that year the company fired its managing director, Robin Baird-Smith, and attracted a Hollywood producer to try and market its books to major picture studios.

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