Ovation Graphics Buys Fort Worth-based Branch-Smith

By David Ward, San Diego Thursday 12 January 2012

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Ovation Graphics this week announced the purchase of Fort Worth, TX-based Branch-Smith Printing, enabling the 101-year-old company to avoid liquidation and continue operations.

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"It ends up being a win-win and good news for the people at Branch-Smith," noted Daniel Hanson, formerly president of Branch-Smith, who now takes over as head of the newly renamed Ovation Branch-Smith. "The Branch family are longer involved but all of the employees - any of whom have been here 10, 20,25 plus years - are able to keep working."

Ovation announced the deal this week, but actually made the purchase in December, just as Branch-Smith was being forced into insolvency in a US Bankruptcy Court by three paper suppliers, who claimed they were owed more than $1.1m.

As part of the deal, Ovation Graphics obtained the rights to the Branch-Smith name, which is well-known locally. Branch-Smith has sales of $15.3m in 2010 and employs about 80.

"Ovation has a few other printers around the country and they came in and provided the capital to prop this company up," Hanson told PrintWeek. "There is a very strong customer base that remains in place - we have a very unique manufacturing mix and some unique capabilities and that was one of the things that appealed to Ovation. They were looking to make some investments in a similar space and then they came in and saw that we already had much of that installed."

Hanson said Branch-Smith does a lot of books, manuals and periodical printing, adding that its top two customers are outside the state of Texas.  

"We also invested in some large format KBA presses, which we bought for the book and publication market, but which also double as a very effective packaging press," he said. "So we're now looking at some significant packaging opportunities going forward."

Despite his company's financial situation, Hanson noted the business climate for commercial does seem to be improving, adding, "There's a slow healing that's taking place and a lot of printers are repositioning and retargeting and developing new capabilities to improve their margins."

The new owners are currently remodeling the 63,000-square-foot Branch-Smith facility. Asked if that may include some new presses, Hanson said, "We're having those conversations now but that's going to take some time. Some of the assets are not staying because they didn't seem like a good fit for the business going forward. But there will be some new assets coming in and we'll also be looking at some new configurations."

Branch-Smith has an interesting history - it was founded by Aaron Smith, who was born without arms but who learned to write and type with his feet, becoming both an attorney and an editor at a local paper before launching the company.

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