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The MATLET Group -- Power of the Press

May 2009 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
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GARY STIFFLER considers himself a good judge of people. A 28-year printing industry veteran, Stiffler’s background includes stints with World Color and Quebecor World. During that time, he also became a shrewd arbiter of talent, appreciating the timber of employees that can enable a company to endure the peaks and valleys of business over the long haul.

Thus, when his then-employer, Quebecor World, announced in 2004 that it was divesting a number of what it deemed to be “non-core” operations in the United States and Canada, Stiffler saw a unique opportunity. A number of these short-run commercial printing businesses in the United States had thrived for 75 years or more. They had good people at the helm and competent employees on the floor. 

To put a twist on a common mantra, one company’s non-core business is another firm’s treasure. Stiffler saw all of the pieces falling into place. He would propose a management-led buyout and set out on his own. Stiffler knew who the right people would be for the job. He had an idea of what it would take to infuse some new momentum and energy into these plants. All he needed to do was strike a deal with Quebecor World. That would take time.

Autonomy at Plant Levels

When Montreal-based Quebecor World was unable to find a single taker for all of the non-core plants, it reached separate deals in late 2005 with two groups: a concern led by Aivars Beikmanis formed Grafikom out of six Canadian facilities, while Stiffler and two partners plunked down US$70 million for five plants in the states. Stiffler named his new company The MATLET Group.

The transactions largely did not benefit most of the participants. Quebecor World, struggling with myriad issues, filed for bankruptcy at the end of 2007. And Grafikom, which Beikmanis and his investors paid US$44 million to acquire and create, fell into receivership late last year.

The MATLET Group, on the other hand, is sailing along on the strength of more than just cautious optimism. Stiffler is a firm believer in autonomy at the local plant level. “You have to let people spread their wings, so to speak, for their facilities to grow and prosper,” he contends. But, he also believes that in order to grow and prosper, you need the right tools for the job.



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