Park Communications delighted at new ownership

Jo Francis
Friday, July 1, 2022

Park Communications has been acquired by a long-standing family-owned continental print group.

L-R: Mason, Branch, Deckers, Philippe Geers, Denis Geers
L-R: Mason, Branch, Deckers, Philippe Geers, Denis Geers

The multi-award-winning London business, which specialises in high-end creative and bespoke printing, has been acquired by Belgium-headquartered Graphius group, which has a similar speciality along with extensive case binding facilities.

Graphius was founded in 1928 and has its main production site in Ghent. It also has operations in Brussels, Antwerp, Ostend and Paris. The group has sales of €100m (£87m) and the UK is its third-biggest market.

Park Communications was co-founded in 1991 by managing director Alison Branch and CEO Heath Mason, who brought together seven businesses to form Park. The duo jointly owned the business. 

They remain with the firm in their current roles, with Denis Geers and Philippe Geers, the grandsons of the founder of Graphius, joining the Park board. 

Graphius UK sales director Joris Deckers also becomes part of the Park leadership team. 

Mason explained that the deal had been a number of years in the making.

“For some years, we have been looking for the right partner to take Park forward for the next 30 years. This is for our employees, our clients and for our suppliers," he said. 

“We have been speaking with Denis and Philippe for nearly three years, and over that time have built a relationship of trust and understanding. Graphius and Park have a very similar culture, which really cares for its stakeholders. Alison and I are very pleased to be part of Graphius Group, and now look forward to taking the business forward under their ownership.”

Branch told Printweek the duo were “absolutely thrilled”. 

“Denis and Philippe came across with their senior management team yesterday and met the staff, and the staff really liked them,” she said. 

“I think customers and suppliers will be very pleased too. It’s great synergy and a good mix of markets. One of the important things for them was a printer who could deliver the quality they deliver, and that’s one of the other reasons they chose Park. It’s a marriage made in heaven. 

“I’m really excited and really looking forward to what we can do together.”

Branch said she and Mason had no immediate plans to retire. “Park is our passion. If you’re enjoying it, why would you want to retire?”

The two firms have a number of mutual customers, including Christie’s and English Heritage. 

Branch said there was an opportunity to widen Park’s offering to Graphius’ existing bookwork customers, as well as grow the business in general. 

“They see there’s a real opportunity to grow in the UK. Obviously they have case binding in Belgium but I’m sure the thinking is in time to put some shorter-run case binding in the UK,” she added. 

Graphius CEO Denis Geers commented: “The acquisition of Park, with its very well established reputation for quality and integrity, is a well-considered move towards becoming a local producer in the UK. 

“Our existing broad UK customer base, the competence of Park’s staff, and its high quality production facilities located where they are in London, convinced us to take this step.”

The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Park had sales of £9.3m in the pandemic-impacted financial year to 31 December 2020 and made an operating loss of £445,847. Branch said the business was back in the black in 2021 and in the first six months of this year. 

Park’s factory is in east London, close to City Airport. The firm, Printweek’s reigning SME Environmental Printer of the Year, offers a comprehensive range of services from typesetting and pre-media to post-press and fulfilment. It runs litho, digital and large-format printing kit and expanded into B2 digital printing with a new HP Indigo press earlier this year. 

It runs two high-spec Koenig & Bauer Rapida 106 B1 litho presses, a 10-colour perfector and a six-colour plus coater.

Park said that benefits to customers would include economies of scale “most significantly in the ability to purchase paper at the most competitive rates”, and access to the extensive case-binding capabilities at Graphius for long-run casebound books. 

Both firms expect to exploit synergies around the production options for UK or continental printing, and will continue to push ahead with “innovation and investment around sustainable printing driven by both companies’ leadership in this field”. 

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