Log In | Become a Member | Contact Us

Market Intelligence for Printing and Publishing

Connect on Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn

Featured:   COVID-19 Coverage   Printing Outlook 2020   WhatTheyThink Magazine     Production Inkjet     Installations and Placements

Commentary & Analysis

Private Equity LOVES Labels – August 2016 M&A Activity

Massive global private equity funds move aggressively into the label and related printing segments, marketing services provider Firespring acquires Jacob North and does good, Supremex rolls up US envelope production, the newspaper chess game goes on and more.

By Mark R. Hahn
Published: September 13, 2016

It’s a love affair - private equity firms are hot for printing companies that specialize in prime labels and flexible packaging. AEA Investors, a New York City-based private equity fund, announced that it was adding to its holding in the label printing segment with the addition of three companies to be bolted-on to its portfolio platform company Inovar Packaging Group which the fund acquired earlier this year. The triple-play acquisition brings Murray Label & Packaging in Dallas, Texas, 21st Century Labels & Packaging in Davie, Florida and SafePrints       in Miami, Florida into the Inovar Packaging Group. The acquired companies produce custom prime pressure sensitive labels, printed shrink sleeves, cartons and flexible packaging. AEA Investors is a very senior member in the PE world, with lineage going back to 1968, and American aristocrat founders including the Rockefeller, Mellon, and Harriman families. The firm has approximately $10 billion in assets under management with offices on three continents. They clearly like the label business. 

Advent International, middle-aged in PE firm years, having been established in 1984, stepped into the US label printing business in a big way in August. Advent announced the acquisition of Fort Dearborn, a supplier of prime labels headquartered in Elk Grove, Illinois. This is a secondary buyout of Fort Dearborn, which has been a portfolio platform company of KRG Capital Partners which acquired Fort Dearborn in 2010 and completed four add-ons to the company since 2013. Fort Dearborn is now one of only a few major players in the otherwise highly fragmented label printing segment. The company is reportedly now the third largest supplier of prime labels in the North American market, with 15 manufacturing facilities and approximately 1,675 employees. Like AEA Investors, Advent International also has patrician roots, founded by Peter Brooke who had previously founded TA Associates, an early and very successful venture capital firm. Advent just completed raising $13 billion for its eighth global fund, bringing its total to $42 billion under management. They also like the label business. 

Here are more private equity firms that have shown the love for the label and related printing segments during 2015 and the first eight months of 2016:

PE Activity in Label & Related Printing Segments (2015/2016)


Private Equity - Buyer

Platform Company

Acquired Company
(PE Seller)


Advent International


Fort Dearborn
(Port co. KRG Capital Partners)


AEA Investors

Inovar Packaging Group

Murray Label & Packaging


AEA Investors

Inovar Packaging Group

21st Century Labels & Packaging


AEA Investors

Inovar Packaging Group



Svoboda Capital

Infinite Packaging

Hyde Park Label


AEA Investors


Inovar Packaging Group


Wellspring Capital


Coating Excellence International


Saugatuck Capital

Litho & Label

Plymouth Printing


Sidereal Capital Group


Flexo Transparent


Wind Point Partners


Wisconsin Film & Bag
(Port co. Argosy Partners)


Wellspring Capital


Ampac Holdings


Mason Wells


AWT Labels & Packaging


Sun Capital Partners




Sun Capital Partners


Elldex Packaging Solutions


Highlander Partners


Popular Ink


Wendell Group


Constantia Flexibles
(Port co. One Equity Partners)


Commercial Printing - Diversified Services

Firespring, a diverse marketing services provider in Lincoln, Nebraska, added two more printing companies to the roster of Midwest firms it has rolled up over the past two years. In this latest transaction, the company acquired commercial printer Jacob North Print & Media along with quick printer A to Z Printing which had merged with Jacob North in November 2014. Jacob North may have finally found a home after 128 years in business, having filed bankruptcy in 2013, purchased in a bankruptcy auction at a fire sale price by Nebraska-based Midstates Print & Media Solutions in 2013 (see The Target Report – June 2013), and now sold again, this time to Firespring.

Firespring’s slogan is “A force for good” and its website features millennials eating, playing, and working together to use their creative marketing and production capabilities to “do good.” In furtherance of its dedication to assist non-profit organizations with marketing services, Firespring announced another acquisition in August, the purchase of online crowdfunding platform Deposit a Gift.

In other deals in the commercial printing segment, Maine-based serial acquirer J.S. McCarthy Printers acquired the remaining business of Artco Offset in Canton, Massachusetts. Artco’s plant was closed and the production equipment auctioned off in August. Woods Printing in Holland, Indiana acquired Oaks Printing in Evansville. Grand format specialty provider SBR/Vision Graphics in Salt Lake City has established a foothold in what may be the ultimate market for grand format services, Las Vegas, with its acquisition of commercial printing company Universal Color Graphics.

Supremex, a publicly traded Canadian company and producer of a wide variety of envelopes and similar products, announced the purchase of Bowers Envelope in Indianapolis, Indiana. This marks the second time in less than a year that Supremex has acquired a US-based envelope manufacturer (see The Target Report – October 2015). 

Newspaper Publishing & Printing

The local community newspaper publishing business continues to churn as family-owned papers, many with histories that extend back to the 1800’s, struggle to survive the steady decline in readership and advertising spend devoted to local print. In Vermont, The Rutland Herald and associated papers were saved from almost certain closure by Maine entrepreneur Reade Brower, owner of MaineToday Media which publishes several papers in Maine and also the owner of Alliance Press, a related commercial printing company. In a drama that was played out in the pages of its own newspapers, the acquired company missed payrolls, bounced checks and then fired its news editor after he authorized the publication of a story questioning the company’s financial position.

In a similar, but less dramatic turn of events in Kansas, local newspaper entrepreneur Joey Young, who owns several local newspapers, swooped in and purchased the Herington Times only five days after the owners had announced to the staff that the paper was closing.

Paddock Publications, publisher of suburban Chicago paper The Daily Herald, and others, purchased five daily newspapers and seven weeklies, all serving Southern Illinois. The seller was GateHouse Media, which in turn had itself only one day earlier purchased Fayetteville Publishing, publisher of The Fayetteville Observer, the oldest surviving local newspaper in North Carolina. The purchase included the company’s headquarters building and production plant, the commercial printing division, and multiple websites.

Signature Offset, a national multi-plant printer of many newspapers, inserts and publications, headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, was sold to an unnamed investment group which immediately shut down the company’s printing plant in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The website has been rebranded ICSO, LLC and appears to still be a work-in-progress as the company rebrands.

View the complete M&A report for August 2016

Mark Hahn is a Managing Director and Founder of Graphic Arts Advisors, a boutique strategic financial advisory and consulting firm focused exclusively on the printing, packaging and related industries. He assists company owners and management, as well as their lenders, investors and shareholders in the following areas: mergers & acquisitions, sale of business, strategic and financial advisory, capital structure & funding, financial analysis, interim & turnaround C-level management and business valuations. Mark is the author of The Target Report and is regularly published and quoted in printing industry trade and management journals. Mark can be reached at 973-588-7399 or mark@graphicartsadvisors.com.


Post a Comment

To post a comment Log In or Become a Member, doing so is simple and free


Become a Member

Join the thousands of printing executives who are already part of the WhatTheyThink Community.

Copyright © 2020 WhatTheyThink. All Rights Reserved