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Year in Review : Not the Best of Times

December 2009 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor

FOR THE second year running, Montreal’s Quebecor World captivated our minds and latched onto our attention span for the better part of the first six months of 2009—a thankful distraction from the economic woes our nation continued to experience. And for all of the negative news that permeated the front pages this year, it probably represented less than a third of all the closures and layoffs that actually took place. Perhaps ignorance is bliss.

Though the Quebecor World saga garnered much attention, the volume of companies either shutting down or shedding workers was alarming, nonetheless. In January, Oregon businesses Leading
Media Print Group
and Koke Printing fell victim to the credit crunch and closed their doors, while check printer Harland Clarke chained facilities in Minnesota and North Carolina, leaving 225 people out of work. And effective January 1, Michael DuBose stepped down as CEO of Baltimore-based Vertis Communications.

The economy also illustrated that no company was immune from its clutches. Sussex, WI-based Quad/Graphics announced it was eliminating 550 positions from nine facilities in five states, or about 5.6 percent of Quad’s domestic workforce. RR Donnelley of Chicago closed down its Heartland Press plant in Spencer, IA, taking away 160 jobs. Two other printers—book specialist Courier Corp. of North Chelmsford, MA, and label printer Multi-Color Corp.—each closed plants, consolidating their work into existing facilities. Combined, more than 130 jobs were lost.

Century-old National Hirschfeld of Denver locked its doors for good at the end of January, putting 250 people in the unemployment line. The company had filed for Chapter 11 protection while it sought out a potential buyer.

Wayne Angstrom, a 2003 Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame inductee, sparked a management-led buyout of the St Ives U.S. division from St Ives plc of London. St Ives employs 564 people in its Cleveland and Hollywood, FL, facilities.

Transcontinental Inc. of Montreal eliminated 1,500 jobs as part of a rationalization measure. The company also instituted other cost-cutting initiatives, such as a hiring freeze, unpaid leave and reduced work weeks.

RR Donnelley targeted more than 200 job reductions at its Von Hoffmann plant in Jefferson City, MO, with workers either laid off for a few weeks or permanently.

An employee of Cenveo’s envelope plant in Chicago was found dead in early February, apparently crushed between the rollers of a machine. Foul play was not suspected. The Stamford, CT-based company also shuttered its plant in Easton, MD, with about 200 jobs lost.

Brown Printing, Waseca, MN, eliminated 200 jobs across its network of plants, representing about 8 percent of its total workforce. Employees from three states were impacted. 

The face of printing in Los Angeles took on a different look as spring approached, with longtime fixture Anderson Litho getting consolidated into ColorGraphics by parent company Cenveo. Meanwhile, Insync Marketing Solutions filed for Chapter 7 liquidation.

K&D Graphics, of Orange, CA, held an open house to showcase its new 12-color, 41˝ Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 105, one of the world’s longest sheetfed printing presses.

Sad news struck the Goss International family when the bodies of Phil Burke and his eight-year-old daughter were pulled from
Miami’s Biscayne Bay on April 7. An accident during a father/daughter tubing excursion had apparently claimed their lives. Burke, 49, was the company’s vice president of sales for Latin America.

Saddled with more than $6 billion in debt, AbitibiBowater of Montreal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection both in the United States and Canada. 

In perhaps the most shocking printing news of the year—perhaps of this century—RR Donnelley made a bid to acquire Quebecor World, which was about to exit bankruptcy protection. The offer of $1.35 billion in cash and Donnelley stock was rejected shortly thereafter by Quebecor World, which stuck to its game plan of emerging from Chapter 11 protection. And, in another shocker, former Donnelley CEO Mark Angelson climbed into the captain’s chair of the newly rechristened Worldcolor.

The EPI Cos., a $51 million-a-year, Marietta, GA, printer, announced it was closing on April 15. Naperville, IL-based Solar Communications also shut down after a run of nearly 50 years. Cenveo, meanwhile, fired up the M&A engine by plunking down about $44 million in cash and stock to obtain Nashua Corp. 

Ralph Pontillo, one of four 2009 PI/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame inductees, purchased Miami Valley Publishing of Fairborn, OH, from its parent company, Transcontinental. Miami Valley specializes in retail insert printing.

Joining Pontillo on the Hall of Fame podium in Chicago were Janet Green of Greens Printing in Irvine, CA; Steve Hayes of Omaha Print in Omaha, NE; and Herb Zebrack of Lithographix in Hawthorne, CA.

DS Graphics, Lowell, MA, purchased bankrupt digital printer LaVigne Inc. (LVI) of Worcester,
MA. LVI’s facility there was kept intact, with CEO Chris Wells spearheading the integration of client relationships.

In press manufacturer news, Holger Garbrecht, KBA North America’s president and CEO, resigned his post at the end of August. He was replaced by Mark Hischar. Meanwhile, a rumored merger between Heidelberger Druckmaschinen and manroland AG never materialized.

MSP Digital Marketing of New Canaan, CT, acquired a substantial interest in Tec Doc Digital Solutions (TDDS), then forged a strategic partnership agreement with Tracer Imaging of White Plains, NY.

NewPage Corp. and fellow U.S.-based coated paper manufacturers Appleton Coated and Sappi Fine Paper North America petitioned the federal government to impose duties on China and Indonesia for subsidizing and dumping certain coated paper. The petitions covered coated paper used in high-quality writing, printing and other graphic applications using sheetfed presses with a GE brightness rating of 80 or higher. 

The NAPL politely declined the invitation to hold merger talks with the PIA, citing a preference to remain independent while focusing on its consulting business. The news came at a time when some observers felt the industry could not support two associations for printers.

Two more companies folded as the leaves began to change colors: Ramsey Press in Mahwah, NJ, along with Precision Technology of Pembroke, NH. Ramsey Press filed for Chapter 7 liquidation, while Precision Technology apparently closed without providing notice.

Consolidated Graphics (CGX) of Houston and its Nies/Artcraft subsidiary acquired certain assets of The Kohler Print Group and Pinnacle Press. The St. Louis subsidiary is now doing business
as Nies/Kohler.

Francis Canzano Jr., the president of Acme Printing in Wilmington, MA, passed away after a long bout with cancer. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.

It was business as usual for Worldcolor, which inked a multi-year deal with Macmillan to print more than 800 million major trade bestsellers, textbooks and mass market (paperback) books. The company also appointed Dan Scapin as president of Logistics and Premedia.

As the year drew to a close,
Canon raised some eyebrows when it agreed to acquire Océ for euro 8.60 per share cash, or euro 730 million (US $1.1 billion). 

As the U.S. begins to take baby steps toward an economic recovery, it will be interesting to see which printing establishments share in the prosperity offered by 2010. The recessional catastrophe may be over, but now it’s time for companies to determine how hurt they really are...and whether there is a future for them at the printing table. PI



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