Special Report: Acquisition Fever

July 19, 2005

Buying and selling of label converting companies, groups of companies, and supplier businesses gained momentum in the second quarter.

As the 1990s came to a close, label industry pundits predicted the acceleration of mergers and acquisitions in the narrow web industry. The North American industry had matured, the map was filled with converting companies of every size, and consolidation was inevitable.

Certainly buying and selling and merging were taking place, but the pace could not be described as hectic. Among the notable business moves were the merger of Wisconsin Label and Superior Label Systems into what is now called W/S Packaging Group. Not long before that deal took place, Wisconsin had acquired Label Art, Wilton, NH. Some years earlier, Rick Majewski and his partners formed Impaxx, a conglomerate of a dozen companies involved in several aspects of the packaging industry. Both Impaxx and W/S have annual sales in the $200 million range. Many smaller — and significantly quieter — acquisitions dotted the landscape, as modest-sized converters with thoughts of growth began reading the For Sale signs more closely.

Some big moves took place on the supplier side as well. Roto Press International was acquired by Nilpeter, and Comco International was bought by Mark Andy, thereby shrinking the narrow web press market by two significant players. Last fall, Avery Dennison announced the acquisition of Jackstädt, an absorption which became official just recently.

The pace appears to be picking up. In the past few months alone several well known companies have either been sold or bought. Largest of these is the group of label converting operations owned by Mail-Well Inc., Englewood, CO. Its label division in North America alone consists of 14 plants, and another three are in England.

Other recent deals include the acquisition of Quick Pak by Multi-Color, both of Cincinnati, and the purchase of Spectrum Label, Hayward, CA, by its vice president, Jerry Kwok. On the supply side, 3M announced last month that it was acquiring Emtech, Medina, OH, a supplier of various specialty substrates.

Mail-Well Label to Renaissance Mark
Mail-Well announced in late May that it was selling its label division to a newly formed company called Renaissance Mark, based in Denver. The sale price at first was not disclosed, but after some wrong numbers were publicized Mail-Well divulged that the amount is $75 million.

The new owner is Greg Mosher, a Denver businessman who has started and sold companies several times in the past. He also builds luxury homes and invests in Broadway theatrical productions. He was joined in the acquisition by Arsenal Capital Partners, also based in Denver.

Mail-Well Inc. is a $2 billion company that does most of its work in the envelope and commercial printing business. It employs 15,000 people and has more than 140 printing plants throughout North America and the UK. It got into the label business in a big way in 1999 with the purchase of Porter Chadburn, the London-based corporation which had 13 label companies, 10 of which were in the US. Mail-Well's decision to sell the label division, which accounted for only 10 percent of its annual revenues, was aimed at debt reduction and a move toward concentration on core businesses.

Still, $225 million in sales a year is not small change, and Renaissance Mark finds itself the second largest label converting operation in North America (CCL Label is first.) with a total of 1,450 employees.

John Nicely, who was director of marketing for Mail-Well Label and is now vice president of marketing for Renaissance Mark, says Mosher plans to "take a leading role as an innovator in the label industry. A lot of people bring out innovations, but nobody is consistent in doing so." The new company, he adds, has a financial structure "committed to accelerated investment in the business, in technology and future acquisitions." Mosher plans to "build this business into the largest label producer in the industry."

Renaissance Mark's North American operations are in four basic areas:
Cut-and-stack label plants are located in Baltimore; Bowling Green, KY; Leemington, ON; Montreal; and Sparks, NV. A plant that produces unsupported film is in Cincinnati. Pressure sensitive label operations are in Scranton, PA; Fullerton, CA; Monterey, Mexico (a joint venture); Plant City, FL; and Skokie, IL.

Industrial label plants are in Columbia, SC; Raleigh, NC; and Wareham, MA. These operations manufacture such products as touch pads, overlays, metal stamp type labels, and metal foil labels.

The three companies in England are Label Double S, in Bradford, West Yorkshire; Customark in the West Midlands, and Stampiton of Stockport, near Manchester.

"We are positioning ourselves as offering brand imaging solutions to our customers," says Nicely. "We offer multiple printing curriculums, and we have an extensive R&D program and a powerful sales and marketing effort. We intend to go out and dominate those markets in which we participate," he says.

Quick Pak to Multi-Color
Multi-Color Corp. continues its energetic pace of acquisition with the recent purchase of Quick Pak Inc. from Alex and Debbie Buhayar. Quick Pak provides of promotional packaging, assembling and fulfillment services to health and beauty companies, consumer product manufacturers and national retailers.

"The acquisition of Quick Pak supports our long-range strategy by continuing to broaden the products and services we provide to the consumer products industry," says Frank Gerace, Multi-Color president and CEO.

Quick Pak is expected to bring more than $10 million in annual revenue and a roster of blue chip clients, says Gerace. "We are fortunate to combine the region's leading provider of packaging services with Multi-Color's reputation as a premier supplier of decorating solutions."

Multi-Color intends to retain all Quick Pak employees — about 300 full and part-time — and its production facility in Cincinnati.

Gordon B. Bonfield has been named president of the Quick Pak division, Previously he was COO of Ivex Packaging and a member of Multi-Color's board of directors.

Seven months ago, Multi-Color purchased Premiere Labels Inc. of Troy, OH, to further strengthen its position in the pressure sensitive label market. Since December 1999, Multi-Color has acquired three separate companies and positioned itself as a one-stop provider of in-mold, shrink sleeve and pressure sensitive label solutions and services for technically complex applications to consumer product companies and container manufacturers worldwide. Today it is the world's largest producer of in-mold labels and has five manufacturing operations in the United States. Its products are shipped to more than 150 customers in the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America and Asia.

The company's acquisition record has not gone unnoticed. Recently it received a 2002 Greater Cincinnati Deal Maker Award, presented by the Association for Corporate Growth. The award recognizes corporate and individual "deal makers" who have been creative, tenacious and persistent in their efforts to complete acquisitions, joint ventures, financing and strategic alliance transactions. Multi-Color was one of three corporate winners that have been successful in their pursuit of corporate growth through acquisitions.

Spectrum Label acquired by VP
Jerry Kwok, the former vice president and general manager of Spectrum Label Corporation, has purchased the business from its founder, Alan Leeson. Spectrum is located in Hayward, CA.

Kwok, whose background is in finance and accounting, joined Spectrum 10 years ago as controller. He is now president and CEO.

Leeson established the company 34 years ago, and remains owner of the building in which Spectrum operates. The company moved in 1999 into the newly-constructed space from its former location across San Francisco Bay in San Carlos.

"Alan's philosophy has always been to treat our vendors, customers and employees well," says the new president. "I agree with that philosophy. A lot of our employees have been here for 10, 20, even 30 years, and they are valuable to the success of this company."

Kwok became more deeply involved in sales and production when the company moved to its Hayward headquarters. "That's when I started becoming a printer," he says. He became the sole owner of the business in February, and today is doing "double-duty as the head of sales, as well."

Spectrum's top managers include Bruce Riddell, vice president of engineering and technical development; Mark Massey, vice president of manufacturing, and Yates Downes, graphics director.

Emtech to 3M
3M, of St. Paul, MN, announced in late June that it will acquire the assets of Emulsion Technologies Inc. — known in the industry as Emtech. The companies announced the move as an agreement to combine Emtech and 3M's label business into a single 3M operating unit. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Emtech supplies a range of substrates to the converting industry, and has several proprietary products, including high performance adhesives. It is strong in the automotive tire label market. 3M's label business also focuses on substrates, as well as on adhesives, release liners, and lamination films and tapes.

"This is a great move for our customers and our people," says Greg Lampe, Emtech's president. "Our people and products will benefit tremendously from 3M's strong brand name, unmatched technology base and worldwide presence."

"We're excited to join forces with a premier company like Emtech — a company known for its high quality products and superior customer service," says Jim Mahan, division vice president, 3M Engineered Adhesives Division. "3M has a solid reputation for providing innovative adhesive and label solutions to customers worldwide. This deal will strengthen our ability to meet customers' needs by expanding our line of products and services for the label and converting industry."