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PRINTING IMPRESSIONS 400 YEAR IN REVIEW -- Reflecting on 2003

December 2003

Speaking of Mail-Well, it sold off a portion of its Digital Graphics Division, for an undisclosed amount, to Group360. The locations sold were its Accu-Color facility in St. Louis, including a satellite operation in Atlanta; its Colorhouse plant in Dallas; and its NK Graphics facility in Keane, NH.

RR Donnelley settled several age and racial discrimination lawsuits for $21 million, stemming from allegations of workers at the now-closed The Lakeside Press facility. On a happier note, the company expanded its printing operations in Lancaster, PA, and Spartanburg, SC, as part of the company's 2003 capital spending plan of approximately $250 million.

Not such good news out of Dayton, OH, as Standard Register eliminated about 500 jobs after closing its rotary printing plant in Kirksville, MO, and consolidated four fulfillment centers. A new regional print-on-demand and fulfillment center was created in Dallas—closing two centers in Dallas, one in Oklahoma City and one in Spring Grove, IL.

Heidelberg handed over the reins to a gapless Sunday 2000 web press to the Rochester Institute of Technology in April at a dedication of the school's new 11,000-square-foot Heidelberg Web Press Lab. The press replaced a M-1000B web press that was donated in 1986.

Congratulations went out to Branch-Smith Printing of Fort Worth, TX, which was honored with the 2002 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. The award was presented to CEO David Branch by Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Vice President Dick Cheney. Branch-Smith experienced a 72 percent growth in sales over four years and held that gain in 2002.

Talk about longevity, Arthur Wetzel, former owner of Milwaukee-based Wetzel Brothers Printing, turned 100 in August. Wetzel, who retired only five years ago with the sale of his company to Houston-based Consolidated Graphics, has spent more than 80 years involved in the printing industry.

In late summer, M&A activity seemed to heat up. The Von Hoffmann Corp. acquired The Lehigh Press for approximately $110 million. Lehigh's operating platform, which employs approximately 450, includes Pennsauken, NJ-based Lehigh Lithographers and Broadview, IL-based Lehigh Direct.

Also announced was an agreement of private equity groups Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co. and Jefferies Capital Partners to acquire the Sheridan Group from BancBoston Ventures and other shareholders in a deal valued at $142 million.

On the equipment supplier front, Lastra America merged its Western Lithotech and Lastra America operations into a single business unit. Electronics For Imaging (EFI) signed an agreement to acquire T/R Systems, and Colter & Peterson purchased the paper cutter and paper drill assets of Dexter-Lawson Manufacturing.

Not to be outdone by the heads of some other industry giants, William Davis, chairman, president and CEO of RR Donnelley, revealed that he is retiring, but would remain with the company until there was a replacement named. Then, in November, the biggest bombshell of the year was announced—RR Donnelley and Moore-Wallace signed a definitive agreement to merge, creating North America's largest full-service commercial printer with more than $8 billion in annual revenues and approximately 50,000 employees worldwide.

The combined company will retain the RR Donnelley name and will be headquartered in Chicago. Upon closing of the transaction, Mark Angelson, CEO of Moore-Wallace, will become CEO of the new RR Donnelley, succeeding Davis. Longtime RR Donnelley director Stephen Wolf is to become non-executive chairman of the combined company.

It was also a year in which there was a high-profile, ongoing legal dispute between two major West Coast printers. An Orange County, CA, jury found in favor of ColorGraphics in a suit against its competitor, Graphic Press. The jury awarded damages of $76,500 each against Graphic Press and its owner, John Zamora, based on a claim of negligent interference with prospective economic advantage. This was much less than the $6.8 million ColorGraphics had sought, however.

Quebecor World made news again later in the year, when it revealed plans to cut 1,000 jobs from its worldwide operations after the company lost $62 million in its second quarter. The loss included write downs and restructuring charges of $82 million.

As GRAPH EXPO and CONVERTING EXPO rolled into Chicago, there were signs that the printing industry was starting to make a comeback. The trade show drew more than 38,000 attendees, with 580 companies exhibiting in 375,000 square feet of display space.

During the show, four industry veterans were inducted into the Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame. These leaders included Wayne Angstrom of Miami's St Ives, U.S. Div.; Nicholas Simon of Louisville, KY-based Publishers Printing; Donald Roland of Baltimore-based Vertis Inc.; and Don Walsworth of Walsworth Publishing in Marceline, MO.

GRAPH EXPO exhibitors reported strong sales leads, and made some big sales. MAN Roland, for example, sold the first 900 XXL extra-wide sheetfed press (which debuted at the show) to Strine Printing of York, PA. Komori America announced that it renewed a five-year, $50 million purchasing agreement with Houston's Consolidated Graphics. Another big purchase was an order of three Heidelberg Sunday 3000 web presses sold to Wisconsin's Quad/Graphics.

Moves such as these point to a positive turn in the road for the commercial printing industry. Let's raise our glasses and toast that 2004 will be a year of substantial growth and prosperity.
 

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