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Anderson Lithograph--All the Right Moves

August 2000
BY ERIK CAGLE


One by one, John Fosmire, president and CEO of Los Angeles-based Anderson Lithograph, clicked off the names of former commercial printing contemporaries who had sold their interests to industry consolidators. It was as dubious a list of names as the would-be survivors who had been voted off the island.

"Other than our acquisition by Mail-Well, I can't name any high-end lithographer that increased sales or was a better company a year after being acquired," Fosmire remarks. "Maybe (name withheld to protect the guilty), but I don't think so."

Fosmire, a 40-year printing veteran, rattles two more possible names off the top of his head. Again, he doesn't think they met the criteria.

"What seems to happen is that some of these consolidators want to do a cookie-cutter thing: Put everybody into the same box and make them conform to the corporate line," he says.

The last thing Anderson Lithograph needed was to be molded into something it was not. A versatile performer for the magazine insert, poster, catalog and advertising/promotional printing markets, Anderson Lithograph—a darling of the high-end designer set—serves the financial, entertainment, automotive, retail and computer industries. The cookie-cutter epidemic weighed heavily on their collective minds when the decision was made to be acquired by another industry heavy-hitter.

Extensive research yielded results Fosmire & Co. had expected. Mail-Well was the real deal; an organization that had a history of success stories and is regularly ranked in the upper echelon of printing sales on the Printing Impressions 500. Two years after being merged into the Mail-Well Print Group, Anderson Lithograph has become more powerful than ever and far from being a poster child for botched consolidations. In other words, Mail-Well has allowed Anderson Lithograph to be itself.

"There was a period of adjustment for us, but I think the fact that we're working with people like (Mail-Well executives) Paul Reilly and Jerry Mahoney—who let us explain our business to them—was a pivotal

factor," Fosmire notes. "I have a lot of faith in Paul and Jerry, which I can't say about . . . some guys [who] just storm in, make a decision and that's it. They're not that way. Not that I'm any kind of expert, but I've been at this for 40 years and I've seen Anderson Lithograph grow from a $700,000-a-year company with 19 employees when I joined it to a $150 million-a-year company when we sold it. It's been a real experience and an exhilarating ride."
 

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