Apex founders retire, Cron and Ryobi agencies find new homes

By Darryl Danielli, Wednesday 04 July 2018

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Apex Digital Graphics has transferred its two exclusive UK agencies, Cron CTP kit and plates and Ryobi RMGT litho presses, to new companies as its joint owners look to retire and wind down the business.

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(L-R) Usher with Lock, fellow managing director Mark Stribley and shareholder Mark Sheldrick

“Basically Terry [Bratt, technical director] and I want to retire. I’m 68 and Terry’s 66 and a half and we had been looking to sell for a while,” said Apex managing director Bob Usher.

In a deal signed last Friday (29 June), as of 2 July Service Offset Supplies (SOS) has taken on the Apex business and its UK agency for Cron CTP kit and plates and the reseller agreements for Konica Minolta AccurioPress production printers, Mitsubishi polyester plates and Screen CTP kit and plates.

SOS has also taken on 11 of Apex’s technical support staff and the outstanding warrantees of Apex’s service contracts as part of the deal.

“I’ve known Mike [Milfull, SOS director] for a long time, from when he was a salesman and I was a service manager at Itek in the 1980s,” said Usher.

“So, once we decided to split the business then I knew that he and SOS would offer the perfect home [for the non-press business].”

Usher said he was initially approached by an unnamed company to sell the entire £11m-turnover Apex business at Drupa 2016, but after that deal fell away a year later, he and Bratt started to seriously consider selling the business and decided that splitting it was logical approach.

He began talking to Milfull in March this year.

As well as supplying pressroom consumables, SOS is also a reseller of kit and software from companies including Epson, Fujifilm, Kodak, Roland DG, Screen and Xerox.

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Milfull: he and SOS offered the perfect home for the Cron business

In a statement on the SOS website, Milfull and fellow director Mike Manzi said the acquisition was a “perfect fit”, expanding the range of products, service and support the business could offer.

In a separate deal, signed yesterday (3 July), M Partners Group, which already holds the UK agency for RMGT B1 and VLF presses, has taken on sales and service for the RMGT B3 to SRA1 format presses that were previously handled by Apex.

As a result 14 sales and service staff, including Apex sales and marketing director Neil Handforth, have TUPE’d across to M Partners.

M Partners Group joint managing director Murray Lock said: “It’s a natural fit. We’ve taken on the staff, all the warranties and service programmes, and sales projects. It’s very much business as usual."

He said the first priority was to inform the customers of the change, and then roll out a business plan to develop what he described as an “already very large UK installed base” by extoling the virtues of the total cost of ownership [TCO] of RMGT technology.

“We see this as a really exciting opportunity. TCO is the natural position for RMGT to own across the whole market, especially when things are so tough for printers.”

The Surrey-based firm has been the UK distributor for RMGT B1 presses, service provider for existing Mitsubishi machines, and European service manager for RMGT presses since 2014. It’s also the UK agent for GUK folders and inserters, MGI sheetfed digital presses and Mabeg inspection systems.

Apex first started selling Ryobi presses in 2001, when it extended a partnership with the then Ryobi UK agent Ry-Offset Graphics, to sell Ryobi’s two-colour portrait-format presses, the 3302H and 3302HA.

Apex then secured the UK agency for Ryobi presses in 2002, after the parent of Ry-Offset, Knight Machinery (Holdings), fell into administration.

During its Ryobi tenure, Usher said that Apex had sold more than 200 presses, including 20 LED UV machines since 2014.

“We’ve had a very good run, and I think this is the right time to retire. What’s going to happen on the other side of Brexit, nobody knows, so the timing felt right,” said Usher.

Usher said that after 52 years in the industry, 30 running Apex, he was particularly pleased that all bar a handful of admin staff from Apex’s 29 employees had found roles with M Partners and SOS.

“Our whole ambition with this was to walk away with dignity and a clean heart,” he said. “When I first started in print we won the World Cup and I hope we do the same in the year I leave.”

Usher and Bratt, who jointly founded Apex in 1989, will spend the next few weeks chasing down the outstanding debtors before winding down the business.

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