Paragon acquires Howard Hunt businesses

Paragon Group has acquired various parts of the Howard Hunt Group in a pre-pack deal.

The company has bought Celerity Information Services, ORM and Graft Services as well as the order book and customer base of direct mail operation Howard Hunt (City).

PrintWeek understands that Paragon’s purchase was completed yesterday (22 May), after administrators, understood to be Martha Thompson of BDO’s London office and Francis Newton of BDO’s Leeds office, put Howard Hunt Group’s assets into administration.

Howard Hunt (City) had originally filed a notice of intention to appoint an administrator on 8 May, with PrintWeek reporting earlier this week that the business was facing a financial crunch with lender Santander.

Multiple sources subsequently told PrintWeek that some production staff at the company had been sent home earlier this week.

Paragon said the purchase of Celerity, ORM and Graft, which have a total turnover in excess of £30m, will further strengthen its digital communications and identification expertise, while bolstering its business in Europe and the US.

Data business Celerity Information Services currently employs 87 people. It has two sites in Europe, in London and Madrid, and a third in Boston, US.

Paragon said this business will boost the group’s capabilities in the customer communications sphere and will complement services already offered by the existing team at Paragon Customer Communications, particularly around digital/regulated communications and identification.

ORM has more than 100 staff operating from bases in London, Jelenia Góra, Poland, and Kiev, Ukraine. Specialising in digital strategy, technology platforms, data, customer experience, design, brand and marketing communications, the company works with a number of major global brands.

Paragon said it plans to make ORM a centre of excellence for digital and mobile marketing, enhancing the group’s ability to deliver technology-driven insights for multi-channel customer communications.

Kent-based print management firm Graft Services delivers a "marketing concierge service" that covers disciplines including big data, multi-channel marketing, postal optimisation, direct sourcing and supply-chain management.

Paragon said the acquisitions underline its “ongoing commitment to being the market-leading service provider for customer communications”.

Paragon Customer Communications UK chief executive Jeremy Walters told PrintWeek: “The strong presence of the brands in the overseas market is definitely an attraction for us, and we’re very excited by that. It also fits in with both our strategic direction and vision.

“We were attracted to them because all three are very strong businesses with very good people and clients.”

The Celerity and ORM brand names will both be retained by Paragon and all staff at these two businesses as well as those at Graft will be kept on as part of the deal, and will remain based at their respective existing premises.

Walters said the business is also “in discussions” to take on some of the circa 250 staff from Howard Hunt (City).

“We have a site that’s quite close where we have 19 vacancies from client service people through to developers and production people, and we’ve made that list available to the administrator, so we will welcome applications from those people to move over onto that side of the business,” said Walters.

In the past three years Paragon Group has nearly tripled in size, now employing close to 6,500 staff and recording a pro forma turnover in excess of €850m (£750m).

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