Why After taking the reigns as chief executive of the circa £150m turnover group in January, Jeremy Walters has wasted no time in making his presence felt in this year’s Power 100, securing the title of highest new entry. Described by colleagues as “always approachable, with a great sense of humour”, he’s been with the business since the Howitt days as far back as 2004. A devoted family man, he’s also a keen runner. He has completed two Tough Guy endurance competitions, three half-marathons and is set to take on next year’s London Marathon in aid of the NSPCC. “He certainly dances to his own beat and if he can bust half as many moves in business as he can on the disco floor, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with,” says one industry insider.
Why Kathy Woodward’s proudest achievement as chief executive of the Fed is without doubt securing £1.1m of government funding to launch its two-year graduate scheme. “In one fell swoop Kathy has created 265 disciples to carry the message forward that print is an incredibly exciting industry, full of opportunity,” says one colleague. While Woodward might be print’s most vocal evangelist, that doesn’t mean she wanders around with rose-tinted spectacles on – she can be challenging and, at times, brutally honest. In fact, one of her biggest bugbears is the industry talking itself down, so before she takes on her next big challenge of convincing the government that print is a vibrant, creative industry, not a grey, withering manufacturing one, she’ll relish the chance to convince the industry old guard of that fact too.
Why Following his promotion to group chief executive last year, 2012 should have been David Allen’s last appearance in the UK-centric Power 100. But he hangs on to his place following the exit of UK managing director Phil Carr last month and the resultant expansion of Allen’s role to include the UK operations. The past 12 months haven’t been easy for Allen, with a significant boardroom reshuffle giving him a new boss, Andrew Price, who has pushed through a painful restructuring of the merchant’s core UK business. It doesn’t look like the next 12 months are going to be any easier either, with Allen’s ‘nice guy’ image at risk of being tarnished further if the cutbacks continue. But at least the prospect of seeing some gain from all the pain might soften the blow.
Why The world’s longest B1 press and Europe’s first Komori GLX 740RP – just a couple of the investments made this year at Chesapeake Towers. Very much the brains behind such an impressively relentless investment drive, is chief executive Mike Cheetham. “Mike’s very keen on developing new products,” says one colleague. “He’s really good at removing any potential roadblocks to investments, whether financial or customer-based.” Despite being responsible for around 6,000 employees, the ex-engineer is apparently also very good at maintaining an open-door policy. “He welcomes communication with all different levels,” says the colleague. “I could pick up the phone pretty much any time to talk about a new product idea. I don’t know how he does it!”
Why With no M&A activity of late, it’s been a comparatively quiet year for Mark Scanlon, the sharp-as-a-tack chairman at Wyndeham owner Walstead. There’s no doubt he’s run the numbers on a few possible opportunities – as one observer notes “where there’s a corpse, Mark will be measuring it up”. But the past year has really been about paying down Walstead’s debt and, he says, “making sensible decisions”. With a slew of contract wins and renewals in recent months at Wyndeham, he seems quietly satisfied, describing progress at the business as “excellent” in the face of some aggressive competition. And the public statement of support from bankers RBS provided third-party validation of the group’s strategy.
Why There’s something of a new era underway at Williams Lea, with a swathe of fresh management in place in new global roles, and the departures of a number of executives who were with the business as it grew into today’s £951m behemoth. One print supplier to the group describes Steve Nunn, now the group’s global leader for print and procurement, as “a bit of a demi-god – he’s in a very powerful position”. And, while praising Williams Lea for being a “great customer”, this supplier does feel that the group has become so big that it has lost something of its sense of soul and empathy on the journey to major corporate. With the recent integration of Williams Lea marketing solutions into the higher-margin Tag business, Tag’s European chief Pete Zillig is in the frame for a Power 100 spot next year.
Why Will Polestar’s £50m reinvention of its web offset platform be Barry Hibbert’s triumphant swansong? Or will he, as one observer predicts, “become the new David Holland”. Speculation about the likely departure of the group’s longest-serving chief executive over the past couple of years has proved premature – Hibbert has a bigger train set again following the Goodhead buy, and another major project to get his teeth into. There’s no shortage of cynicism about the web plan, and funding for it. If a key plank of it involves wresting significant contracts from arch-rival Wyndeham, then such deals have yet to materialise. The man himself remains as forceful and energetic as ever, and recently urged clients to “continue to invest in the golden nugget of printing”.
Why Four years after Andy Blundell took over as chief executive at Communisis, the group he’s presiding over is now a much happier place. The share price is up, its £20m share issue was oversubscribed, recently hitting a 52-week high, profits are up, and the firm has captured a swathe of major contracts – including a nine-year deal with Nationwide and most recently a 10-year deal with Lloyds Banking Group as it seeks to establish itself as the partner of choice for major outsourcing of this ilk. The business is also increasingly becoming an international player after it extended its outsourcing contract with FMCG giant P&G to a further 10 countries across Europe, taking it to 15 in total. “He’s done wonders for the business,” notes an observer, although some think the quietly confident Blundell is a bit too quiet. “If the measure of a CEO is don’t kill anyone and improve the share price then he’s succeeded, but I’d like to see a bit more verve,” says one associate. Blundell isn’t short of challenges either, it’s very much jam tomorrow with big contracts that come larded with hefty acquisition costs, and the restructuring of the cheque and DM operations is still to be completed.
Why Another big year for St Ives’ thoughtful and focused chief executive, as the group continues its transformation into something that could well attract the interest of, say, WPP in time. We don’t know whether the “empathetic” Patrick Martell found enlightenment on his recent trip to India. Perhaps he didn’t need to. He’s obviously already seen the future for St Ives – and it’s in marketing services. Industry watchers speculate that one of his future challenges will be to pool St Ives disparate band of marketing services acquisitions into a cohesive operation that is greater than the sum of its parts. Meanwhile, the legacy print operations have been trimmed again this year, with changes underway at the Bradford DM site; as have group overheads with the departure of managing director of printing and publishing Lloyd Wigglesworth and a raft of senior commercial staff.