Bell & Bain set to acquire 21 Colour

By Rhys Handley, Wednesday 06 June 2018

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Bell & Bain is in the final phase of completing the acquisition of 80-year-old Glasgow printer 21 Colour, with plans to grow the business and nurture its “cracking workforce”.

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From left: Campbell, Docherty and Baillie following Bell & Bain's inclusion last year in the 1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain list

Glasgow-based Bell & Bain, which has been running since 1831, has been in discussions with management at 21 Colour to acquire the business in full for the past two months. The deal, for an undisclosed sum, is almost complete, with details expected to be finalised before the end of June.

According to Bell & Bain managing director Stephen Docherty, the company will take on all of 21 Colour’s business, as well as its 36-strong team and its printing facilities.

“I am not doing this for money,” said Docherty. “Commercial print is having a tough time at the moment and I have known [21 Colour managing director] Trevor Price for a while. 21 Colour needs a little TLC to keep going and we can provide that.

“This is about people, and 21 Colour has a cracking workforce. I was once one of those people on the shop floor and you never forget what that is like. We hope to keep every single member of 21 Colour, as well as providing more training and discipline, and adding some apprentices to the team.

“When we decided to acquire them, we had been shopping around for a new B1 press which could have ended up costing just as much as a small company. This way we acquire more staff, new technology and new premises. It is the next phase of our growth.”

Coming along with 21 Colour is a Kodak Nexpress, a 10-colour Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 75 and a variety of finishing equipment including laminators, cutter-creasers and foilers. Bell & Bain had previously been outsourcing its foiling work.

Price, operations director Philip Cole and the rest of 21 Colour’s team will remain in place with Docherty overseeing the operation as chair. The new subsidiary will maintain its own name and branding following the acquisition.

21 Colour currently turns over £3.5m, which will help push Bell & Bain’s own £14.3m closer to Docherty’s target of £20m. According to Docherty, the focus is on “doing what we have always done but quicker and better, then growth and everything else will come naturally”.

Bell & Bain already runs two premises in Glasgow, with 21 Colour’s 2,500sqm base making a third. The parent company has plans to buy a fourth site in the near future.

The addition of 21 Colour’s will bring Bell & Bain’s own headcount up to 161 people.

Its acquisition of the firm comes ahead of more significant change at Bell & Bain as sales director Tony Campbell prepares to leave the company he has worked for since 1986 next year. As he steps down, operations director Karen Baillie will step into the managing director role – which Docherty will vacate to become chair of the company.

“We do not see many female directors in print and I can honestly say I have never worked with someone more capable than Karen,” said Docherty.

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