Bell & Bain eyes rapid growth after £30m merger

By Rhys Handley, Friday 05 July 2019

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Bell & Bain has acquired J Thomson Colour Printers to create a 300-strong, £30m-turnover Glasgow print group.

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Docherty, Baillie and Creechan shake on the deal

The deal, which completed yesterday afternoon (4 July), came about after J Thomson chairman Nick Thomson approached Bell & Bain chairman Stephen Docherty about buying the firm around six months ago.

The acquisition was financed by Close Brothers Asset Finance.

Thomson has now transferred his 100% equity holding to Bell & Bain for an undisclosed sum, with both companies maintaining their staff, structures and brand identities. Kevin Creechan will remain as J Thomson managing director and Karen Baillie as managing director of Bell & Bain. Docherty will be chair of the full entity.

Docherty said: “I used to work at J Thomson as an assistant bindery manager before leaving to join Bell & Bain and we have always had a very close working relationship. I knew [J Thomson founder] Hamish Thomson well and when his son Nick approached me, I said yes.

“It is a fantastic business – well-run and well-invested with no kit older than two and a half years and without owing anyone a penny, which is quite an achievement.

“As a group now, you name it and we can offer it from digital to bespoke. I think we must have become one of the biggest independently-owned companies in the country and now we will be looking to some big investments so we can work together and grow.”

Looking forward, Docherty said he was aiming to boost the group’s turnover to £40m in a couple of years, while he would also look to grow both companies’ apprenticeship schemes, which have been a source of pride for both Bell & Bain and J Thomson.

J Thomson will continue to provide commercial print to its clients while benefitting from the onsite book printing capabilities of Bell & Bain and working closely with 21 Colour, the commercial printer acquired by Bell & Bain last summer.

Nick Thomson will remain with the business until the end of the year as a consultant to the merged entity. He said he was “delighted that this coming together of two first-class Glasgow-based print companies will create an enhanced business with tremendous potential for growth”.

Bell & Bain was founded by James Bell and Andrew Bain in 1831 and is now a prominent UK book printer working on a number of high-profile titles, including the recent runaway success of the Pinch of Nom recipe book.

J Thomson was founded in 1952 by Hamish Thomson, who passed away last year, and provides a full range of commercial printing services to large and small business across the UK.

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