Heidelberg will name a new managing director for Heidelberg UK in the new year. Whoever it is will take over from Gerard Heanue who has been managing director of Heidelberg UK as well as Sweden, Denmark and South Africa for eight years. Heanue will step down at the end of the financial year at the end of March.
Heanue says that he notified the board of his plans to retire early at the start of this financial year, giving the company plenty of time to identify a replacement. However, he has not been involved in the process so cannot say who is in the frame.
The most likely successor will have a financial background like Heanue himself. He joined Heidelberg UK as finance director in 1995 under Wolfgang Gorth, moving four years later to become chief financial officer of Heidelberg Asia Pacific, a period of huge expansion.
He returned to the UK role between stints as chief financial officer of Heidelberg Europe, Middle East and Africa, before taking up the lead role in the UK. A further move to head the important Heidelberg USA operation was not to happen, despite his track record in the UK operation.
Heidelberg UK has blazed the trail for high efficiency printing, squeezing performances from presses that other countries are not trying to match under the encouragement of Anthony Thirlby, the Briton who is now global senior vice president of the commercial sector.
“When head office does benchmarking exercises, the UK is always one of the best sales and service units. We lead on market share, profitability and service contract coverage – all the things that a sales and service should be doing,” Heanue says.
This has led to invitations to share that experience. “Germany has wanted me to run a couple of projects with a focus on service contracts and consumables, but it didn’t really fit. They were quite disappointed.”
He leaves Heidelberg UK in a good place despite the impact that Brexit uncertainty has had across the UK industry. Sales in the last financial year for Heidelberg Graphic Equipment slipped from £100.6 million to £92.4 million and pretax profit dropped at the same time to £2.23 million (£4.43 million). Around half the sales are made up from equipment, accounting for the entire fall. Consumable sales at £27.4 million and service revenue of £17.9 million were steady.
There is also an “excellent sales team” Heanue points out, leaving a strong platform for whoever takes over. Heanue will remain with the business for a short handover period and continues as chairman of Picon until June and will be active with the Stationers’ Company.
He bows out at a time when the sales emphasis is shifting from litho to digital as the potential market for Heidelberg litho presses in this country continues to shrink.
“I am 57 and always planned to retire early and I think this is the right time,” he says. “Heidelberg is working on the short list, and I am not involved. Though if you are working in a senior role for Heidelberg, you want to be in charge of the UK.”