The MBO marks the third change of ownership in less than a decade for the wide-format media manufacturer, following its sale to Oji Paper Group in 2005 and then Paradigm Global Partners in 2010.
According to reports, Paradigm pulled the plug on its investment at the start of July, leaving Ilford unable to pay its 220 staff and facing bankruptcy.
However, Willems, who was chief executive of GMG prior to joining Ilford in 2011, was able to secure backing for an MBO from Ilford’s Asian distributor JetGraph, which has taken a shareholding along with Willems and Metrailler.
Following the MBO, Willems plans to sell “a significant part of the land owned by Ilford Property” to fund strategic investment in Ilford Imaging. Nevertheless, the need to realign the cost base of the business has led to a 40% reduction in Ilford’s 220-strong workforce.
The MBO deal was announced on 17 September, at which time Willems said: “The last few weeks have been extremely challenging and I would like to thank the dedicated members of staff that even through the restructuring process have continued to push the business forward.
“In addition, I am very grateful for the continued support of our customers around the world that have stood by us through these difficult conditions. Finally, we have had a number of key suppliers that have continued to work with us through this period at their own risk and again I appreciate their support. It is a true testimony to the quality of products and the importance of our brand.”
In spite of its financial difficulties, Ilford has maintained a steady stream of acquisitions and product launches over the past 12 months, including the purchase of CMA Graphix Group, Colorportal and Tecco, and the launch of NanoSolvent and AquaBlock coatings for its Omnijet range of wide format inkjet media.
JetGraph president Keiichi Shindo said: “Ilford is a world-renowned brand and we are very optimistic about the potential of the new coating technologies, including NanoSolvent and AquaBlock, as well as the new additions to its traditional inkjet photo paper range.
“The innovative products that Ilford have developed recently are a key reason for our investment decision and they will deliver a fundamental contribution to our future growth plan for the commercial sign and display market.”
Following the MBO, Ilford announced a technology partnership with Lintec Sign Systems on 18 September. Under the terms of the partnership, Lintec has licensed Ilford’s NanoSolvent and AquaBlock coatings for use on a range of Lintec substrates.
NanoSolvent is a coating optimised for use with wide-format eco-solvent inkjet printers, while AquaBlock is a water-fast coating layer optimised for use with aqueous wide-format inkjet printers.
The new products will be sold worldwide under the Lintec brand.