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Lehigh Plans Growth For a Second 75 Years

March 1999
Cherry Hill, NJ—Growth and success have been a consistent part of the Lehigh Press tradition since the company was founded, and are the sources for its confidence in a dynamic and expanding future. They are also bottom-line issues that are changing the direction of an industry leader.

Lehigh operates in four industry sectors, including direct marketing, book components for EL-HI publishers, electronic prepress, and pharmaceutical inserts and labels in Puerto Rico (JV). Lehigh is currently ranked 50th among the nation's top 500 printers by Printing Impressions.

Under new management since May 1998, the company grew 20 percent in its direct marketing print operations last year, and is articulating a growth vision throughout the entire enterprise.

According to President and CEO Ray Frick, "1999 is already a year of celebration, further growth and renewal. This year marks Lehigh's 75th Diamond Anniversary. In this industry, 75 years of continuous business operation and ongoing, stable growth is no minor accomplishment. It is an extraordinary testimony to John D. DePaul, now chairman of the board, as the driving force behind Lehigh's success for 50 years. We have an excellent legacy to build upon," states Frick, "and we now intend to take this fine company to the next level."

Longtime industry veteran Frick understood that raising the bar meant the immediate implementation of a plan for accelerated growth. Named president and CEO in May 1998, he came to Lehigh from Quebecor Printing (USA), where he served as president and COO in the Commercial, Book, and New Market Groups. While there, he had P&L responsibility for nearly $1 billion in revenues in printing and digital communications.

He is utilizing his Quebecor leadership to the advantage of his new company. "We're doing business with a renewed vitality and energy. We've made some very significant adjustments and enhancements. First on our agenda was the further strengthening of the senior management team and achieving good collaboration with the fine, pre-existing senior management."

John R. DePaul, the senior DePaul's son, was already in place, leading Lehigh Lithographers in Pennsauken, NJ, as president of the publishing side of the business. Additionally, Bill Love, the highly regarded CFO, has been an important contributor for over two decades. Therefore, Frick initially focused his attention on the Cadillac Direct Marketing Div. located in Broadview, IL. Already one of the largest direct response printers in the industry, Frick identified the opportunity to quickly grow market share further.

With these goals in mind, Paul Palmer, a longtime associate, rejoined him at Lehigh as president of Lehigh Cadillac Direct.

"Paul's primary mission is to drive the creation and implementation of an aggressive growth strategy and new business development for the Lehigh Cadillac Direct Div.," says Frick. "We're determined to become an increasingly prominent provider in the robust direct marketing sector."

Frick is committed to Lehigh becoming increasingly efficient and productive in the 21st century. "We needed a senior individual with particular expertise in building a high-performance operating platform. We found him in Damon Snyder." Snyder joined Lehigh in mid-1998, and was appointed general manager of the Pennsauken, NJ, printing facility and, concurrently, senior vice president of operations at the enterprise level.

Adds Frick, "There is tremendous potential within our companies, through a cultural commitment to continuous process improvement that will have an indelible, positive impact on further efficiencies and operating performance."

In addition to a new senior executive group and the recent company reengineering, Lehigh has rapidly put in place an aggressive capital expenditure program to support growth.

"We've invested $14 million in capital projects over the last 24 months in web offset presses, sheetfed presses, computer-to-plate technology and advanced digital prepress equipment for all our divisions," Frick explains. "We are fully committed to extending our present market leadership position in those sectors where we elect to participate."

Acquisition is another important component of Lehigh's growth strategy. Once again, Frick's industry acumen, particularly in the area of successful transactions and post-acquisition integration, should prove an important advantage for Lehigh. While Frick has not yet revealed specific target companies, he is clearly active in the screening stage.

He anticipates that at least one transaction and, potentially, more will occur sometime during the company's anniversary year. Most certain is the fact that, by the year 2000, Lehigh will be a materially larger printing, graphic and digital services company.

In keeping with these on-going changes inherent in a growing organization and in recognition of the company's 75th anniversary, Lehigh is also in the process of introducing a new corporate identity program. The collective result, notes Frick, is an organization that values the past while embracing a very exciting future.

"Lehigh is an excellent company with a rich culture and strong presence within our industry," he states. "We intend to enhance that legacy by growing the company, making it more aggressive, responsive and productive. We're very confident and enthusiastic about our future. The first 75 years were great...the next 75 will be even better."

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