11 September 2016 Print Companies

Onlineprinters changes hands as VC investor bows out

German online print business has passed to a new equity shareholder, underlining the appeal of the online print business model.

Onlineprinters, one of the largest of Europe’s online print businesses, has changed hands in a deal announced last week.

After three-and-a-half years, principal private equity shareholder TA Associates has agreed the sales of its majority stake to Bregal Unternehmerkapital. Terms of the deal are undisclosed, though TA will not be disappointed with its return for its involvement with the southern German business.

The new investor is part of the holding company for the family whose fortune has been built on the C&A retail empire. It has invested in a number of mid sized technology companies some trading online, with Onlineprinters as its first investment in the printing industry. As it is not strictly a PE business, there will be no pressure for an exit within a set period.

Under TA Associates’ stewardship, the company has developed from a largely family controlled concern to one with a much more professional structure. Michael Fries was brought in from Cewe two years ago as managing director alongside founder Walter Meyer. As a result of this deal, Meyer steps on to a newly created advisory board, leaving Fries as CEO.

The company has also expanded, adding new facilities to existing premises and taking over new plants in Neustadt an der Alsch. It has also been active in developing new products, strengthening the IT backbone and opening operations in other European countries. It is now active in 30 countries through 15 online shops.

It operates 110 printing units, the majority B1 Heidelberg, but also including Indigo and large format inkjet. These helped it deliver 2.1 billion products last year and to handle 3,500 orders a day.

In the UK, Onlineprinters has been targeting marketing departments and designers, hence sponsorship last week of the Brand Effectiveness Awards in Soho. Fries handed over a number of awards and was able to explain that the deal is good news for the company.

It will provide the resources for acquisitions should these be required “though we are also looking for partners,” says Fries. These would provide the services that fall short of the industrial volumes that suit the company’s approach to production. There will be no change in an approach which centralises production within its own facilities.

The change in responsibilities has been underway for several months as the deal has been negotiated, Fries explained. Meyer remains a shareholder and will be an adviser to the management board.

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Award presentations

Award presentations

Michael Fries (left) was in London last week to present prizes at the Brand Awareness Awards in Soho, ending a week which had begun with the announcement that new owners had taken over at Onlineprinters, leaving Fries as its sole CEO.


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