Real Digital secures PE backing; David Mitchell becomes non-exec director

Richard Stuart-Turner
Thursday, September 2, 2021

Private equity firm LDC has invested in mail and fulfilment company Real Digital International, to support the existing management team following the retirement of founder Peter Rivett, while Astron founder David Mitchell has been appointed as a non-executive director.

Stephens (L, with Tagg): "This investment allows us to embark on an exciting new chapter"
Stephens (L, with Tagg): "This investment allows us to embark on an exciting new chapter"

LDC’s investment will support the existing management team, led by managing director Barry Stephens and sales and marketing director Chris Tagg. Stephens has served as managing director since the end of 2017, when David Laybourne stepped down.

Completed yesterday (1 September), the investment will help the pair to further grow Real Digital’s services and market share across all sectors, particularly within healthcare, mobile, and connected devices. LDC’s support will also enable the team to explore complementary acquisitions.

Founded in 2004, Croydon-headquartered Real Digital employs more than 80 staff and expects to achieve sales of £18m in 2021. It operates two HP Indigo 12000 digital presses, two Screen Truepress Jet520 inkjet presses, and a variety of bespoke finishing and packaging lines.

LDC’s investment was led by Aylesh Patel, Christian Bruning, and Dan Gluckman. As part of the transaction, Patel and Bruning will join Real Digital’s board as non-executive directors. Martin Hiscox will also join the board as chairman, alongside David Mitchell as a non-executive director.

Hiscox is a supply chain expert and has more than 25 years’ experience of working with private equity-backed tech companies, including ByBox, and James & James.

Mitchell’s recent experience includes his involvement with medical packaging business Perigord, where he served as chairman for six and a half years up until March this year when the business was sold in a multi-million euro deal. 

He made his first to return to print in 2009, when he led an MBI at Bezier three years after selling Astron to RR Donnelley for £520m. However, he exited the Bezier business in the summer of 2011.

Real Digital’s Stephens said: “This investment allows us to embark on an exciting new chapter for the business, continuing to expand and develop our market-leading technological solutions across our broad client base.

“LDC has really taken the time to get to know our team and the company. With their support, we have the perfect platform to help us continue to drive the business forward.”

LDC’s Patel added: “RDIL has developed a unique proposition to service markets with huge growth potential. We are backing a strong and passionate management team of innovators and problem solvers that continue to surpass their clients’ expectations. We look forward to partnering with Barry, Chris and the team to support the next stage of their growth journey.”

LDC was advised by Clearwater International and DLA Piper on the deal, while Real Digital was advised by Corbett Keeling and Downs Solicitors.

Real Digital’s founder Rivett had retired from a day-to-day role in the business in April 2011. Since then, his involvement has been as principal shareholder and representative.

He helped steer the business through a turbulent ramp-up period during the financial crisis, during which it lost millions of pounds before turning the corner in 2010. Under his stewardship, the company subsequently regularly achieved double-digit profit margins and was crowned Printweek’s Company of the Year in 2012.

While Real Digital told Printweek the transaction “marks an exit” for Rivett, the company did not disclose its new ownership structure or the financial details of the transaction.

The deal adds to LDC’s portfolio of around 90 companies across almost every sector and region of the UK. Related deals include investment in e-commerce fulfilment specialist James & James Fulfilment in 2020, and Mosaic Fulfilment Solutions in 2019.

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