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2007 Printing Industry Hall of Fame — Master of the Deal - Chris Colville

September 2007 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
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NO MATTER how many times Chris Colville sat down with a legal pad and calculator to perform due diligence in analyzing a potential acquisition for Consolidated Graphics (CGX) of Houston, he kept two things in mind.

One, it required sound judgment to determine the industry’s highest quality companies and their valuations. It is the trait that has enabled CGX to hand pick only the finest businesses the market has to offer and, in the process, compile a balance sheet that is the envy of printers everywhere.

Equally as important, no matter how many major deals Colville and CGX had consummated, it was important to appreciate one little detail: For the man sitting across the desk from Colville, it was likely his first and only sale.

“You need to give a potential deal the same attention, interest level and effort on your 50th deal that you did on the first one,” notes Colville, 49, the recently retired chief financial officer for CGX. But it wasn’t his CFO exploits that landed him onto the list of 2007 Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame inductees; at least, that’s not how history will remember him.

Colville is a unique study as a HOF selection. He doesn’t have “ink in his veins,” never operated a press or lay claim to a family tradition steeped in printing. The man is a CPA and his father owned a ready-mix concrete company.

Yet, Chris Colville is to printing industry consolidation what Harry V. Quadracci was to privately held printers: a trailblazer.

Colville’s time in the printing industry was relatively short, a little more than 10 years. As Hall of Famers go, he is a perfect match for former Dodgers baseball pitching great Sandy Koufax—a man who set the baseball world on its ear in a very short span with a smoking fastball and big overhand curve. Colville’s “fastball” was his ability to help lift CGX from a regional $49 million sheetfed printer in Texas to a national success with 68 facilities in 27 states and Canada, and more than $1 billion in annual sales.

Colville arrived in 1994, just after CGX had gone public, and helped the company complete a pair of deals almost immediately—Jarvis Press of Dallas and Frederic Printing of Denver. He would go on to orchestrate the finalizing of roughly 50 acquisitions, an almost unheard of track record. And while the economic slump that culminated with 9/11 effectively sank the fleet of printing industry consolidation companies, CGX was better positioned to endure the major downturn and re-emerge as the pre- eminent M&A maven on the block. To say that Colville played a large role in this is not an overstatement.

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