Potts Print CEO steps aside to take strategic role

By Jez Abbott, Monday 07 March 2016

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The chief executive of one of the North East's longest-established printers is stepping down after 20 years to focus on strategic aims, acquisitions and up to £4m of investment.

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From left: Johnson, Sandford-Couch and Devine

Michael Sandford-Couch has been at Potts Print (UK) for 30 years and is stepping aside from day-to-day management to become executive chairman.

His company offers printing, packaging and direct mail services from its base in Cramlington, Northumberland to corporations, retail, the NHS, creative agencies, charities and arts groups.

Potts Print has a turnover of over £15m and a workforce of more than 170 people. It was the first 'carbon-balanced' printing company in the north of England and has been printing since 1875.

Sandford-Couch said: “As executive chairman it is my intention to focus on medium- to long-term company strategy and hopefully identify possible future acquisition targets.

“Last year was pivotal for Potts, with acquisitions of Bakershaw Print and Digital XL bedding-in and helping turnover grow by 15% to £15.4m.

“I am also excited about my future involvement in the Atlas House Academy, our in-house training and skills facility, which will be launched later this year.”

The company has been reorganised with a new divisional management structure giving more autonomy to the divisional directors.

Managing director Shaun Johnson, in post for 10 years, has been made the new chief executive. Long-serving commercial director Mark Devine is now managing director.

Johnson said the new divisions, which include print and packaging, digital, wide-format, direct marketing, operations warehousing and logistics and creative web services, would make it easy to branch out into new areas.

“We aim to build 3,300sqm of extra space by the first quarter of 2017 taking total area to 7,400sqm,” he said.

“We will acquire as and when we feel it is right for the company. Digital is a growth area of the business and we are looking for web services to grow.

“I'm sure every printer is trying to focus more on web services but it's understanding how to make money out of it and sell it to your customer base.

“Acquisition targets could be a web-services or large-format company or it could be a traditional litho firm that we could run as a bolt-on business or standalone company.

“We are looking to take our turnover to £20m by 2020 and if we can do £2m in a year, like last year, that seems realistic. That said, if it takes a little longer we won't be too disappointed.”

Johnson said between £2.5m and £4m had been set aside for kit purchases next year but it was too early to name models.

Potts currently runs two B1 Manroland machines, two B2 Heidelberg XL presses, a five- and a six-colour model, and a four-colour SX as well as a B2 two-colour Speedmaster.

Digital kit includes seven Xerox machines, while the finishing department houses Muller Martini, Friedheim and Horizon equipment along with Buhrs enclosing kit and polywrappers in the DM unit. 

Johnson, who has been with the company since 2000 when it was based in North Shields, said he had seen Potts grow from strength to strength.

He said: “I would like to thank Michael for this opportunity and for mentoring me during the 16 years I have been at Potts.”

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