The deal was completed on Tuesday (13 February) and will see chairman Mark Simpson exit the Washington, Tyne and Wear-based business.
His brother and sister were also shareholders but did not work at the firm, which was formed in 1972 by Bill Simpson and employs more than 100 staff at its main 7,000sqm premises and at a satellite southern operation in Langley.
The new management team, who will take over in August 2018, is led by sales director Dean Williams, who becomes managing director, and supported by Mark Jerrard as commercial director, David Dowson as production director and Sarah Tishler as training and development director.
Williams has worked in print for 30 years, including two stints at Simpson Group, re-joining as sales director in 2011. Jerrard, Dowson and Tishler have all been with the business for over 10 years.
David Darcy from Vistage International, who has more than 20 years’ experience working with the previous and new management teams, will join as non-executive chairman.
Current managing director Bill McNally and finance director John Quinn will stay to lead the new management team through a period of transition, before leaving the business themselves in around six months’ time.
Legal advice on the deal was provided by Square One Law and Ward Hadaway, with accountancy firm Tait Walker providing corporate finance support and funding provided by Santander.
Simpson told PrintWeek: “I’m coming in over the next couple of days to round things off and hand over. The deal happened on Tuesday and we made the announcement to the staff on Wednesday.
“I think they were surprised as it’s a big change – a lot of people have been with us for more than 20 years and all they’ve known is the current management team and have perhaps never considered any change in that respect before. But nothing lasts forever, things move on.”
He added: “The Simpson Group name will remain – they’re not rebranding it because it’s built up a good reputation in the marketplace and it’s well-known by all our customers and suppliers so we wanted to make sure that they could hang on to the brand.”
Simpson said the firm had been working for several years on a succession plan to ensure its growth continues into the future.
“We looked at a number of options for many years. I think the idea of the management buyout appealed because it ensured some continuity rather than a trade sale or something of that nature,” he said.
“We’re very much a North East-based business and we’ve got our roots here and we always wondered whether that would be retained if another business bought it.
“We wanted to make sure that there was a team that had been working with us for a number of years and knew the business inside out and would take it further in the way that we wanted.”
Simpson said he will now pursue other interests, with his potential plans including returning to education to study a degree or a writing course, with the ultimate aim of writing a book.
Williams said: “We are excited to drive forward our future growth plans in both retail and in new vertical sectors, and are especially looking forward to continued investment in technology to create high value jobs here in the North East.”
Simpson Group’s customers include Tui, Next, Matalan, Betfred and B&M. The firm runs a raft of HP and Durst large-format kit, a Manroland 904 XXL litho press, a Svecia screen press and a Ricoh small-format machine, as well as a fleet of finishing equipment.
Last year the company said it was looking to improve its automation levels and integrate its systems. It is currently implementing a new Tharstern MIS.