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NICHOLAS SIMON -- A Rich Blood Line

September 2003
By Erik Cagle

Does everyone have a price in the business world? Apparently not. Case in point: Nicholas "Nick" Simon, president of Publishers Press and a 2003 Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame inductee.

Simon, 45, tells the story of the acquisition that was not in the cards. In the early portion of the 1990s, a major, billion-dollar national player in the commercial printing industry made overtures about acquiring Publishers Press, based in the Louisville, KY, suburb of Shepherdsville. Simon, another Publishers Press executive and a representative for the suitor met for lunch to discuss the proposal. When Simon excused himself from the table, the suitor asked the Publishers Press rep, informally, 'So, is there any way we can buy the company from this guy?'

"The guy who was with me, my CFO, had worked with my father Frank," Simon recalls. "He told the (would-be buyer), 'With his father, you might have bought it. With Nick, no way.' "

Publishers Press, which posted sales of $161 million in 2002, continues to be privately owned by the Simon family, which opened the business as a small commercial printing operation in 1866. The founder was NICHOLAS SIMON, for whom the current president was named. Being named after a great-great grandfather, and serving as co-custodian (along with brother Michael, a 2002 Hall of Famer) to a 130+-year-old business heirloom is quite an obligation.

Ink in the Veins

"I kicked around the idea of going to law school," Simon admits. "But the family, the tradition, is really important to me. Our blood line in printing mean a lot."

Publishers Press remained a small operation from 1866 until the 1940s, when Frank Simon entered the fray and took the company into magazine printing. Publications represented more stability in contrast to the somewhat inconsistent commercial market of the 1950s. By the '70s, Frank Simon had made the decision to make the switch from sheetfed to web offset printing.

Nick Simon began working with his father as a pre-teen, getting fun money for running various errands. Nick watched with fascination the quest by Barry Goldwater to become president in 1964; a few years earlier his father had printed a book written by Goldwater, "The Conscience of a Conservative," which enjoyed about 10 printings. Though Goldwater was thumped by Lyndon Johnson in that election, the younger Simon saw the power of the printed word in action.

Simon attended Catholic schools growing up, then went on to Northwestern University, where he majored in history. After working at Publishers Press in the summers of his high school and college years, he joined the staff full-time upon graduating Northwestern in 1981.


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