Saturday, March 7, 2020

Catching the Wave in Corrugated Cartons – February 2020 M&A Activity

The Welch Packaging Group stepped up and acquired PAX Corrugated Products from Georgia-Pacific. The acquired company’s product line, corrugated cartons, is consistent with every company that Welch has acquired in the 35 years since the owner established the company with only four employees and rudimentary box making equipment. With this latest acquisition, Welch Packaging now serves the Midwest market from 16 locations and three distribution centers with over 1,300 employees.

The steady drum beat of acquisitions executed by Welch may very well represent one of the clearest and most highly focused growth-by-acquisition strategies in the printing and related industries: corrugated products, custom production, all within 550 miles of the home base in Elkhart, Indiana. Not once has the owner veered off the path of building a super-regional powerhouse connected by one common thread, corrugated products.

While this acquisition was not in any way a strategic departure for Welch, it does represent a change in tactic as this seller was not a family or entrepreneur, rather the seller was a large privately owned company. Georgia-Pacific, owned by Koch Industries, acquired the PAX Corrugated Products company not so long ago, in August 2017. However, at the time, PAX was family owned, and presumably has retained the feel of a cohesive “family-like” unit within the short hold time by Georgia-Pacific. In any event, the deal is still on point strategically for Welch Packaging Group.

In addition to representing excellence in executing a growth-by-acquisition strategy, the Welch Packaging Group is another example of the emerging trend we noted a few months ago; financially healthy and operationally efficient regional companies leapfrog to an adjacent metro market and build out an additional geographic market position via a series of strategically sound acquisitions. (See The Target Report: Commercial Printing: Consolidation or Regional Expansion?)

Activity Picks Up in Wide Format Segment

We have noted in our last two annual recaps that the landscape is changing in the wide format segment (see The Target Report Annual Recap: August 2019 and The Target Report: It’s Back to School Time, August 2018). Taken together, a multitude of transactions, including a notable number of bankruptcy filings, non-bankruptcy plant closures, and a steady number of acquisitions, indicated that the market for wide format printing services was getting more competitive. Digital wide format printing equipment is now ubiquitous, including installations at many commercial printing establishments that flocked to the higher margins promised by wide format services. Change is afoot in wide format.

As pricing pressure increases at the lower end of the product offerings (e.g. small signs, banners, etc.), the larger and more sophisticated wide format providers are increasingly focused on providing value-added services such as image enhancement, image repurposing, onsite installation and managing the logistics required for large campaign launches.

GSP, a multi-location wide format service provider headquartered in Clearwater, Florida, acquired Custom Color, based in Lenexa, Kansas. The merged companies provide retail marketing graphics and in-store displays. GSP announced plans to continue operating at the acquired facility in Kansas, adding to its other locations in Utah and Wisconsin. Much more than simply a wide format printing company, GSP is positioned to provide a full range of services dedicated to retail environments, from photography to managing complete in-store installation.

Power Marketing + Printing, an Alpharetta, Georgia-based diversified graphics company, acquired Atlanta-based Market Place Color. The acquired company brings extensive wide format production capabilities to the combined entity, including production of backlit transparent displays. The transaction strategically expands the buyer’s breadth of services via an acquisition, versus the other option of developing the new services internally. In one fell swoop, Power Marketing + Printing acquires decades of experience in analog and digital wide format printing services.

Direct Edge Media, headquartered in Anaheim, California, announced the purchase of Sign Language XL, located in Denver, Colorado. The acquired company specializes in the production of event venue signage, out-of-home billboards and point-of-purchase signage. Unlike the Power Marketing + Printing transaction, this deal represents the more common rationale behind most acquisitions in the printing industry; consolidating competing operations into a unified more efficient whole. Direct Edge Media will be moving its existing Denver team into the Sign Language XL location. The previous owner of Sign Language XL was AEG, a sports and live entertainment company that owns, manages or consults with arenas, stadiums, convention centers and performing arts centers to produce music, sports and other events. Previously providing in-house graphic support to AEG, the spun-off company will continue to provide services to AEG, now a customer.

Thomas Printworks, a multi-location reprographic, printing and wide format company based in Houston, has picked up Austin-based Dynamic Reprographics. Both companies started as providers of blueprints and plan documents to the AEC market (architects, engineers and construction companies). The blueprinting business evolved from traditional (and noxious) ammonia-based analog blueprints into digital technologies that produce wide format black and white plan documents, accompanied by toner-based bid and specification books. As digital technologies took hold and color was introduced into products serving the AEC market, it was a small leap for reprographic shops (as blueprint shops became known) to jump into the commercial printing business while maintaining their core focus on the AEC market. (Another example of the much-discussed “convergence” occurring in the printing industry.) Mirroring the nature of the AEC professions, reprographic shops have been essentially a local business. Consistent with this, roll-ups in the reprographic business are characterized by many locations, each serving a local clientele. Thomas Printworks, now boasting in excess of $66 million of revenue, maintains this locality-based characteristic, with 28 locations across four states.

Spicers Canada, a division of Central National Gottesman, announced the acquisition of All Graphic Supplies, a distributor of wide format supplies headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario. All Graphic Supplies brings seven locations across Canada and the Caribbean to the Spicers distribution network. In another trend we see in the printing industry, paper distributors, faced with declining demand for their core products, are acquiring distributors that supply multiple printing segments in addition to their traditional printing company customers, including sign graphics, textiles, digital label and industrial printing companies.

2020 February - 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


Graphic Packaging $6,160 Atlanta, GA Consumer Packaging Group
(Div. Greif)
$200.0 Delaware, OH 2/27/20 $85.0 Acquisition Folding cartons Link
Platecrafters No Data Colmar, PA Flexographic Plate Division
(Sub. Sun Chemical)
$7,500 Parsippany, NJ 2/26/20 No Data Acquisition Flexographic plates Link
Welch Packaging Group No Data Elkhart, IN PAX Corrugated Products
(Div. Georgia-Pacific)
No Data Lebanon, OH 2/22/20 No Data Acquisition Corrugated boxes Link
 Rajiv Yajnik No Data Southampton, PA Minuteman Press Franchise No Data Southampton, PA 2/21/20 No Data Acquisition Printing & copying Link
Joseph Merritt & Company No Data Hartford, CT Northeast Printing Network No Data Cromwell, CT 2/20/20 No Data Acquisition Commercial printing Link
Church Offset No Data Albert Lea, MN Marketing Plus No Data Albert Lea, MN 2/19/20 No Data Acquisition Direct mail & marketing Link
Supremex $191.7 LaSalle, QC Royal Envelope $30.0 Concord, ON 2/18/20 $27.4 Acquisition Envelope manufacturing Link
Lindenmeyr Munroe
(Div. Central National Gottesman)
$6,800 Purchase, NY Wilcox Paper No Data Champlin, MN 2/18/20 No Data Acquisition Printing papers distribution Link
CCL Industries $4,069 Toronto, ON Clinical Systems $14.4 Garden City, NY 2/18/20 $19.4 Acquisition Clinical trial labels & system Link
Atlantic Corporation No Data Wilmington, NC Coastal Corrugated No Data North Charleston,
2/17/20 No Data Acquisition Corrugated boxes Link
Domtar $5,220 Fort Mill, SC Appvion POS Paper Business
(Div. Appvion)
No Data Appleton, Wi 2/14/20 No Data Acquisition Specialty papers Link
Jake Wood No Data Phoenix, AZ Muscle & Fitness (+other titles)
(Prop American Media)
No Data New York, NY 2/14/20 No Data Acquisition Magazine publisher Link
GSP No Data Clearwater, FL  Custom Color No Data Lenexa, KS 2/12/20 No Data Acquisition
(New Direction)
Wide format, in-store display Link
(Port Co. ICV Partners)
$138.7 Hartland, WI Bluewater No Data Bloomington, MN 2/11/20 No Data Acquisition Digital marketing services Link
PCI Pharma Services No Data Philadelphia, PA Bellwyck Pharma Services No Data Toronto, ON 2/11/20 No Data Acquisition Pharma packaging  Link
Quad/Graphics $3,920 Sussex, WI Apple Tree Group No Data Mexico City,
2/10/20 No Data Acquisition Retail creative services Link
Pixelle Specialty Solutions
(Port co. Lindsay Goldberg)
No Data Spring Grove, PA Specialty Papers Business
(Div. Verso Paper)
$2,440 Memphis, TN 2/10/20 No Data Acquisition Specialty paper mills Link
Koehler Paper Group $873.5 Oberkirch, Germany Beaver Paper & Graphic Media No Data Lawrenceville, GA 2/10/20 No Data Acquisition Specialty papers Link
Cox Enterprises $21,000 Atlanta, GA Ohio Newspapers (3 titles)
(Prop. Cox Media Group)
No Data Atlanta, GA 2/10/20 No Data Acquisition Daily Newspapers Link
Komori $897.0 Tokyo, Japan MBO Group $57.0 Oppenweiler,
2/7/20 No Data Acquisition Bindery equipment Link
Mele Printing $19.5 Covington, LA Printing Tech $2.1 Baton Rouge, LA 2/6/20 No Data Acquisition Commercial printing Link
Power Marketing + Printing No Data Alpharetta, GA Market Place Color No Data Atlanta, GA 2/5/20 No Data Acquisition Wide format & retail display Link
Resource Label Group
(Port co. First Atlantic Capital)
No Data Memphis, TN Axiom Label & Packaging No Data Compton, CA 2/5/20 No Data Acquisition Labels & flexible packaging Link
Direct Edge Media No Data Anaheim, CA Sign Language XL No Data Denver, CO 2/4/20 No Data Acquisition Wide format & retail display Link
Thomas Printworks $66.5 Houston, TX Dynamic Reprographics No Data Austin, TX 2/3/20 No Data Acquisition Reprographics & wide format Link
Spicers Canada
(Div. Central National Gottesman)
$6,800 Purchase, NY All Graphic supplies No Data Mississauga, ON 2/3/20 No Data Acquisition Wide format supplies Link
(Sub. Holden Industries)
No Data Waukegan, IL Haapanen Brothers No Data Gurnee, IL 2/3/20 No Data Acquisition Commercial printing Link

2020 February - Bankruptcy Filings in the Printing, Packaging, Paper & Related Industries

Filing Party

($Mil )

Case #

Filing Party Address


Region & City


Attorney for Debtor

Chapter 11 Filings:
The McClatchy Company
(and 52 affiliates)
2/13/20 $739.4 20-10418 Sacramento, CA 2nd Southern NY
New York
Michael E. Wiles Shana Elberg Newspaper Publisher
API Americas Inc.
(Sub. API Group Limited, UK)
2/2/20 No Data 20-10239 Lawrence, KS 3rd Delaware
Christopher S. Sontchi Edward P. Christian  Metallic foil & substrates
Chapter 7 Filings:
Colorxpress, Inc. 2/25/20 No Data 20-80560 Huntsville, AL 11th Northern AL
Clifton R. Jessup Jr. G. John Dezenberg, Jr. Commercial printing
Gilead Publishing, LLC 2/25/20 No Data 20-05110 Wheaton, IL 7th Northern IL
Janet S. Baer Arthur W. Rummler  Religious book publishing
East Coast Envelope & Graphics, LLC 2/20/20 No Data 20-41023 Maspeth, NY 2nd Eastern NY
Elizabeth S. Stong Julie Cvek Curley Envelope manufacturing
Southeast Print Programs, Inc.  2/7/20 No Data 20-01076 Tampa, FL 11th Middle FL
Roberta A. Colton Stanley J Galewski Franchise marketing

2020 February - 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


Springfield News-Leader - Printing facility Mar-20 No Data Springfield, MO Gannett McLean, VA 2/19/20 Consolidating print production Link
Triangle Printing & Packaging 4/30/20 No Data York, PA None N/A Feb-20 Folding cartons Link
Mail Handling Group 3/25/20 No Data Eden Prairie, MN None N/A Feb-20 Direct mail printing Link
Dexter Solutions Mar-20 No Data Memphis, TN None N/A Feb-20 Commercial printing Link