John E Wright acquisitive in Nottingham

Max Goldbart
Monday, February 6, 2017

John E Wright has completed its 10th M&A deal with the acquisition of Nottingham-based digital printer Instaprint.

The deal, which completed on Saturday (4 February), follows the retirement of Instaprint’s managing director Peter Gauntley.

Gauntley, who is staying on with the business for the next two weeks for a short handover, approached John E Wright managing director Tony Barnett in early December with the idea of selling the business in a “friendly takeover”.

Barnett said it was “one of the easier decisions” he had had to make during his 20-year tenure, during which time the company has made a further nine acquisitions.

The Instaprint deal gives John E Wright its third Nottingham site, alongside its main small-format and large-format headquarters and its flagship exhibition division. Barnett said there would not be much overlap with pre-existing work as Instaprint mainly offers high-end brochure and bookletmaking services.

“We’ve known this company for many years,” said Barnett. 

“They’ve been very strong in the creative quarter, right in the centre of Nottingham, and we’ve perhaps worked more with the larger corporates on the outskirts, so we have co-existed for many years but this gives us a strong foothold right in the creative quarter.

“They give us another dimension in bookletmaking, produce a higher-end product like company brochures, and the Versant 2100 they have means they can print on heavier stocks. So this will basically take that small-format booklet and general digital print finishing to a higher level than John E Wright.”

Instaprint’s Xerox Versant 2100 digital press runs alongside a Xerox Versant 80 and a raft of finishing equipment.

Initially, Instaprint will retain its five staff and its brand identity but Barnett didn’t rule out bringing it under the John E Wright branding, as has happened in the past. It is looking for one extra member of staff to replace Gauntley in the role of commercial manager. 

Gauntley said: “Although looking forward to my retirement, I have known Tony for a number of years and know he will invest in the staff and the business to grow the operation in the future. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our customers for their support over the past 26 years.”

The acquisition comes during a period of sustained growth for John E Wright, which is headed for sales of around £7m, in which it recently upgraded two of its sites with Xerox Versant 80s. Around 50% of its turnover comes from its Nottingham sites, with other outposts in Coventry, Hull, Derby, Oxford and Leicester.

Barnett added: “We have a two-pronged strategy in terms of growth, which is to invest in good equipment and grow using that along with people joining, so organic growth, but also to back that up where the opportunity arises at the right price to grow by acquisition. And you do bring in surprisingly good skillsets that you didn’t have before.”

John E Wright, which now has around 90 staff, has recently taken on three new employees in Hull to assist with a contract for print work for the Hull UK City of Culture 2017. 

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