One of the largest label industry acquisitions in the recent past occurred in late January when Multi-Color Corporation, headquartered in Cincinnati, bought NorthStar Print Group from Journal Communications, of Milwaukee. The purchase price, excluding certain real estate holdings, was $27.03 million in cash.
NorthStar, which has production plants in Watertown and Green Bay, WI, and in Norway, MI, has annual revenues of about $60 million and employs 275 people. The printing group is the label manufacturing subsidiary of Journal Communications, a media conglomerate which also owns the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper. NorthStar was founded in 1989 and acquired by Journal Communications in 1966.
Multi-Color is a public company with 2004 revenues of nearly $127 million and compound annual growth of about 20 percent over the past five years. According to President Frank Gerace, the purchase of NorthStar is “Multi-Color’s seventh and largest acquisition since 1999, and represents a major milestone in our history. Like Multi-Color, Northstar is a highly developed, technologically advanced provider of label and decorating solutions to major beverage and consumer products companies worldwide.”
Both companies are known for their strengths in flexographic and gravure markets. Both are established converters of in-mold labels. Both have a portfolio of highly visible customers: Multi-Color is a top supplier of labels for Procter & Gamble, and NorthStar is the exclusive printer of labels for Miller Brewing, from which it has received the beer company’s “Partner in Excellence” award for seven consecutive years.
Gerace says that Multi-Color and Journal Communications began discussing the NorthStar deal in the summer of 2004. “Northstar Print Group will be integrated into our Decorating Solutions Division,” Gerace says. That division comprises about 90 percent of Multi-Color’s label business and includes the operations in Batavia and Troy, OH; in Scottsburg, IN; in Framingham, MA, and in Erlanger, KY.
Richard Gasper, president of NorthStar, has retired after many years at the helm. Two of NorthStar’s prominent managers now have top positions in the expanded organization: Andrew Walker, NorthStar’s vice president of sales and marketing, is now VP sales and marketing for the entire Decorating Solutions Division of Multi-Color; Murray White, VP of operations for NorthStar, remains vice president of operations for the Michigan and Wisconsin plants. Both report to Don Kneir, president of the Decorating Solutions Division.
“All other management and leadership will be, and have been, given positions in the division,” says Gerace. Immediately after the announcement of the acquisition, Gerace spent four days in Wisconsin and Michigan meeting everyone at the three plants. “I found the people at NorthStar to be highly motivated and very enthusiastic to become a part of the Multi-Color family. And it was exciting and motivating to me.”
The enlarged Multi-Color now has 815 employees.
Steven J. Smith, Chairman and CEO of Journal Communications, thanked the people of NorthStar “for