Tony Chard MPG continues to look for acquisition opportunities
LESS THAN A MONTH AFTER PETER PHILLIPS BECAME chief executive of Cambridge University Press, the company has announced it is to close the printing department upon which it was founded 500 years ago. Phillips replaces Stephen Bourne, now non-executive president, Phillips joined the Press in 2010 as chief operating officer. He can claim the title University Printer.
Printing will transfer to MPG Books from July 2 with an agreement to supply printing services to the publisher. MPG has plants in Bodmin, King’s Lynn and Haverhill which is 18 miles from Cambridge. This is MPG Printwise which has a line up of B1 litho presses and has produced colour work for the other book plants as well as commercial work.
THE STATEMENT ISSUED BY CUP TALKS ABOUT transferring the 69 staff to new premises in the Cambridge area. “MPG Books Group is the largest independent book and journal manufacturer in the UK. The long-term agreement is likely to see MPG undertake a significant amount of the Press’s European mono, two and four-colour book and journal manufacturing,” it says.
In recent years, CUP has outsourced more and more of its print operations, including exam paper production to Océ Business Papers in 2008. It has used companies like Lightning Source to print on demand with extensive use of printers in other parts of the world to meet local demand. A small number of prepress staff are likely to be retained by CUP.
THE PRINT OPERATION HAS BEEN MANAGED BY the Press Syndicate, a group of academics charged with running the operation. In recent years there has been a succession of cuts to bring production costs in line with industry standards, while investments have failed to generate the extra revenues that were needed. CUP was the world’s first user of an eight unit perfecting Speedmaster, a technology now commonplace. It also pioneered webfed digital printing for book production.
Heading the Printing House at this time was Rod Willet, who left to lead a management buyout of Biddles with a view to short run digital book production. Biddles was in turn bought out of administration by MPG Books. Tony Chard, group chief executive of MPG Books, says that further acquisitions are possible: "This agreement encompasses the very best of cutting-edge technologies. It is designed to deliver significant strategic, operational and financial benefits to Cambridge University Press, and elevates MPG to the very top of the UK academic book and journal manufacturing league table. We continue to seek acquisition opportunities that enhance our offering to clients, as well as leading the long-overdue consolidation of our sector," he says.
THE PRESS HAS ALSO PRODUCED INTERNAL WORK FOR Colleges of the University, producing invitations and the like which could call upon the foiling and embossing skills of the Bible production unit which was once a key part of CUP.
Now the publishing business, like Oxford University Press, is a worldwide business. The CUP explanation continues: “To serve our customers around the globe faster and more efficiently, we will increasingly need to publish print products simultaneously worldwide employing flexible printing arrangements and the latest digital printing equipment. This new long-term arrangement will see books manufactured on the right technologies wherever they are needed – in Europe, the Americas, or Asia – and will also safeguard jobs for our own highly skilled printing workforce in Cambridge. It will also reduce our environmental impact.”