Monday, October 7, 2019

Behind the Scenes in Photobooks – September 2019 M&A Activity

Seattle-based RPI announced the acquisition of on-demand printing assets from SoftPrint Holdings. The acquired assets include the ColorCentric production facility located in Rochester, New York. The acquisition includes ColorCentric’s “printernet” software that drives personalized print-on-demand production of products that are produced by a network of printing companies located in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as in the United States. The ColorCentric model layers perfectly onto the RPI business-to-business model, producing photobooks and other personalized printed products for resellers.

Cruise all the available pages on the RPI and ColorCentric websites, and try as you might, you will not find the expected photobook app to build your own personalized photobook, calendar, holiday card or other printed items. Nor can you find a way to place an order. That’s because RPI, and the newly acquired ColorCentric, operate behind the scenes as “white label” back-end manufacturers for other online websites, large scale retailers and commercial print providers.

With financial backing from private equity firm Riverlake Partners and additional funding from HCAP Partners, RPI has added onto its original west-coast production platform, establishing RPI Europe in 2011 with the purchase of Paro, a printing company in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. In 2013, the company reached across the US to establish an east coast manufacturing facility with the acquisition of DPI in Atlanta, Georgia.

RPI was not originally a technology start-up, rather the company had its roots firmly in commercial and document printing, having been established in Seattle back in 1979 as Reischling Press. In what must have been a move fraught with risk and uncertainty, the company made the prescient decision in 2006 to jettison its commercial print division and shift exclusively to private label manufacturing for e-commerce companies. With the explosion of the market for on-demand printed products, now 
widely available online and also at retail big-box stores, it appears to have been a good move. 

However, with this latest deal, there appears to be a shift in strategy afoot at RPI: the acquisition from SoftPrint Holdings also included, the consumer-facing website. In addition to the usual photobooks, calendars and holiday cards, Picaboo also offers the latest rage in consumer printed products, personalized home d├ęcor items including wall canvas prints, photo panels, metal prints, and fabric items such as personalized pillows and blankets. Unlike RPI, which started as a printing company, Picaboo was founded as a pure technology solution company in 2002 in the midst of the dot-com bust. With venture capital backing secured in 2004, the company launched its desktop photo album software in 2005, eventually transitioning to an exclusively browser-based application. In contrast to the ColorCentric platform, a visitor to is quickly guided to build a personalized product and place a direct order.

With Picaboo, RPI will be up against some very formidable competition from the twin print personalization giants Shutterfly and Snapfish. Both are now owned by Apollo Global Management which purchased the companies three months ago. (See The Target Report: June 2019, Photobooks & Personalized Consumer Products).

We expect that there will be fallout in the market for photobooks and personalized products, which has rapidly matured along with the sophistication of online tools, digital printing technologies and automation to drive efficient print production. We checked back to see how another online photobook company, Chatbooks, is doing in this hypercompetitive market. With funding from Aries Capital Partners, the company appears to still be in the game, albeit with a much more limited offering than the competition. (To see their clever and entertaining consumer print marketing that is still worth a look and a laugh, see The Target Report: February 2017, Consumer Web-to-Print).


Transcontinental continues its steady strategic transformation from a printing and publishing company into a packaging powerhouse. Canada’s largest printing company acquired Trilex, a plastics and packaging company in Ecuador that specializes in the production and sale of packaging materials and protective barriers for banana farmers. Further executing its two-prong transitional strategy (acquire packaging assets; divest publishing assets), Transcontinental sold the majority of its specialty media publications and event planning activities to the Contex Group and Newcom Media. (For more about the transformation of Transcontinental, including charts of acquisitions and divestitures since the company embarked on this journey, see The Target Report: April 2018, Getting Flexible in Your Middle Years).

Lebelink, based in Anjou, Quebec, acquired label printer Labelix, located in nearby Granby. Labelink produces a wide variety of products, including shrink sleeves and flexible packaging. The company has four facilities in Canada and one in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Commercial Printing and Diversified Services

Wise Business Forms, a print provider selling exclusively via print resellers and distributors, acquired Shawnee Systems, a trade-only print manufacturer located in Cincinnati, Ohio that produces business forms. Wise, headquartered in Alpharetta, Georgia, has five manufacturing locations, extending up the eastern coast to Maine and west to Indiana.

Commercial printing company, Range Printing, based in Brainerd, Minnesota announced the acquisition of Spectrum Marketing Services, a regional printing company with strength in the decorated apparel segment.

In an unusual move, three trade creditors of the defunct Colortree Group, which closed its doors abruptly in June, filed a petition in the US Bankruptcy Court in September to force the remnants of the company into an involuntary Chapter 7. Presumably, the creditors wanted to gain some court oversight of the process and have a seat at the table. The filing will mean that a trustee will be appointed to oversee the disposition of remaining assets to the unsecured creditors, if any, after satisfaction of administrative and secured claims. (See The Target Report: June 2019 M&A Activity).

2019 September - Mergers and Acquisitions in the Printing, Packaging, Paper & Related Industries

Deal Party #1
(Surviving Entity)
($Mil )

Party #1 Address

Deal Party #2
($Mil )

Party #2 Address

Deal Structure


Range Printing No Data Brainerd, MN Spectrum Marketing Services No Data Little Falls, MN 9/30/19 No Data Acquisition Commercial printing Link
EO Media Group No Data The Bulletin
(Prop. Western Communications)
No Data Bend, OR 9/25/19 $0.8 363 Sale in Ch. 11 Community newspaper Link
(Port co. Riverlake Partners)
No Data Seattle, WA
(Div. SoftPrint Holdings)
No Data Boise, ID 9/25/19 No Data Asset Acquisition Photobook printing Link
(Port co. Riverlake Partners)
No Data Seattle, WA ColorCentric / Printernet
(Div. SoftPrint Holdings)
No Data Rochester, NY 9/25/19 No Data Asset Acquisition Photobook printing Link
Vox Media No Data Washington, DC New York Media No Data New York, NY 9/24/19 No Data Acquisition Magazine publisher Link
Orafol No Data Oranienburg,
Kay Automotive Graphics No Data Lake Orion, MI 9/19/19 No Data Acquisition Industrial printing Link
Contex Group No Data Montreal, QC Specialty media assets
(Prop. Transcontinental)
No Data Montreal, QC 9/19/19 No Data Acquisition Business publications Link
Newcom Media No Data Etobicoke, ON Specialty media assets
(Prop. Transcontinental)
No Data Montreal, QC 9/19/19 No Data Acquisition Investment publications Link
Labelink No Data Anjou, QC Labelix No Data Granby, QC 9/18/19 No Data Acquisition Labels Link
Wise Business Forms No Data Alpharetta, GA Shawnee Systems No Data Cincinnati 9/18/19 No Data Acquisition Forms printing Link
East Arkansas Broadcasters No Data Jonesboro, AR Stuttgart Daily Leader
(Prop. Gatehouse Media)
No Data Stuttgart, AR 9/17/19 No Data Acquisition Community newspaper Link
Southland Printing No Data Shreveport, LA Digital Printing Systems No Data Azuza, CA 9/9/19 No Data Asset acquisition
(Strategic Growth)
Parking system tickets Link
Transcontinental $1,957 Montreal, QC Trilex No Data Guayaquil,
9/5/19 No Data Purchase of Majority Interest Plastic packaging Link
FCA Packaging
(Port co. Delos Capital)
No Data Moline, IL Transpak
(Div. Quad/Graphics)
No Data
Sussex, WI 9/4/19 $10.0 Acquisition Industrial wood crating Link
Curated Experiences Group No Data Tampa Bay, FL Editor and Publisher
(Prop. Duncan McIntosh Co.)
No Data Irvine, CA 9/3/19 No Data Acquisition Trade news publisher Link

2019 September - Bankruptcy Filings in the Printing, Packaging, Paper & Related Industries

Filing Party

($Mil )

Case #

Filing Party Address


Region & City


Attorney for Debtor

Chapter 11 Filings:
No Chapter 11 Filings Found this Month --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---
Chapter 7 Filings:
Colortree Group, Inc. 9/11/19 $57.0 19-34739 Richmond, VA 4th Eastern VA
Keith L. Phillips Pro Se Direct mail & envelope printing

2019 September - Non-Bankruptcy Closures in the Printing, Packaging, Paper & Related Industries

Closed Company / Facility

Date of Closure
($Mil )

Closing Address
Related Party Related Party
Date Closure Public


Midlands Printing 10/16/19 No Data Camden, SC N/A None Sep-19 Commercial printing Link
Lifetouch - Printing facility 11/6/19 No Data Loves Park, IL Lifetouch Eden Prairie, MN Sep-19 Yearbook printing Link