Clays announces succession plan and fresh investment drive

Jo Francis
Thursday, May 6, 2021

Clays has announced a major expansion including new kit and a substantial number of new roles, along with a succession plan that will see CEO Paul Hulley step back next year.

Clays: latest spend includes post-press with digital printing to come
Clays: latest spend includes post-press with digital printing to come

The Bungay business is the UK’s biggest single-site book printing operation. 

Hulley, who joined the firm 11 years ago from John Lewis, will retire in May 2022 but will continue on the board as a non-executive director and senior adviser. 

Commercial director Edoardo Cuomo becomes deputy CEO with immediate effect, and will take over as CEO when Hulley steps back. 

Cuomo joined the business three years ago when it was acquired from St Ives by Elcograf, and is a member of the family that owns the Italian group. 

Hulley (pictured below) said it had been an “immense privilege” to lead the business, “working with our customers and partners through a time of extraordinary change and success in the physical book market”. 

“Having worked closely with Edoardo over the last three years, I know the business will thrive under his leadership and I am delighted to be continuing my own involvement through the non-executive and advisor roles.”

Hulley: “We are committed to the market for the long-term”

Cuomo said he was excited about the fresh opportunity: “Of course, I greatly look forward to leading the business and continuing Clays’ long established tradition of leading from the front to deliver the most effective supply solutions for the physical book. We have a very strong management team and I will enjoy working closely with them to support our customers and staff.”

The investment in people and equipment at the business was described as “multiple millions”. It includes an additional binding line for hardbacks and paperbacks, plus a casemaker, with Clays opting for a Muller Martini Alegro binder with gatherer and lining station, and a Kolbus DA270 casemaker. 

The new kit will be up and running for the peak season in autumn. 

Clays is also planning to increase digital print capacity this year, with a further spend on printing and binding on the cards for 2022. 

Hulley said the firm would say more about the print spend for this year shortly, but it would be inkjet web, with the additional investments planned for next year described as “major”.

“We are committed to the market for the long-term and people will see that clearly demonstrated,” he added. 

The firm is also currently recruiting 80 people in Bungay “to be in place and trained ahead of the next peak season”, giving the business “plentiful headroom in capacity”.

Clays had sales of £73.1m in its most recent accounts, for 2019, and employed 797 at the year end. 

Elcograf president Mario Pozzoni commented: “We have been proud to have Clays as such an important part of Elcograf since 2018 and have very much enjoyed working with Paul, his team and their great customers. 

“We are now in a strong position to take the business forward, confirming our long-term commitment to the UK book industry and on-going investment in Clays, with Edoardo’s transition to CEO and Paul’s continued involvement at board level.”

In the summer of 2019 Clays completed a huge £12m investment programme under its new owners that included a raft of kit from HP, Fujifilm, Muller Martini, Manroland Web Systems and Autobond. 

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