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Gordon Towell presents his 11 GEON GMs

Thursday, 22 February 2007
By Print 21 Online Article

The departures of such industry identities as Don Elliott from Agency and Ron Hoolahan from Graphic World plus the elevation of Mark Brebner to corporate sales New Zealand, firms up the new team before the anticipated takeover of Promentum in April.

The integration of the management of team of the region’s potentially largest sheetfed printing company is going ahead under the control of Gordon Towell, CEO, who admits he was “not hired for my printing knowledge.” With a back ground in IT and electrical engineering, the urbane Towell is the public face of GEON, the private equity backed group. PPG new name – GEON He is charged with welding the disparate companies into a cohesive group with an aggressive growth plan that will likely involve further acquisitions.

He acknowledges a change in operating culture from when Pacific Printing Group publicly had a ‘hands off’ policy for any new printing or mail company it purchased. The new GEON-branded group will have a much more integrated approach to its businesses and a prominent corporate profile. There will be more corporate control over activities such as single source purchasing. GEON single supplier strategy

“The logic of what we’re doing is overwhelming. My clear objective is to make this company as good as it can be, based on what the customer wants,” said Towell. “The operational strategy is to work as a group while maintaining the entrepreneurial spirit of our general managers.

“For our customers there will be one invoice for their whole range of printing.”

Towell is a newcomer to the industry having been hired last June by the Gresham Private Equity Group to oversee its printing initiative. He does have a background in overseeing businesses with different centres of operations and in bringing companies to market. Having spent the intervening months meeting with customers and talking with his general managers, many of whom are traditional printing die-hards, his take on the printing industry is a mixture of critical scrutiny and reluctant admiration.

“The industry is very fragmented. It seems to me that at one stage thousands of baby boomers went out and bought printing presses. They are now facing retirement and have to come up with exit strategies.

“Customers tell me these printers tend to sell their machines, not their print, as in you must buy from me because I’ve got a new press. Customers don’t care how their printing is produced, they just want it on time and at good prices.

“At the same time I have met some wonderful loyal, committed and passionate printers, real characters. But they must be aware that the outside world is going by at a hundred miles per hour. The industry has to change.”

He believes the printing industry is at least 20 years behind with its use of CRM and databases and targets the developing of communication networks within the group as a priority. “While it may not be necessary for everything to be in one gigantic shed, we must better link our companies together so that jobs can be transferred easily.”

GEON is about to embark on an aggressive recruitment strategy especially for its management cadre, but the successful candidates will more than likely not be printers. Towell believes the industry needs a vigorous injection of modern management techniques and new ways of thinking. He also commits the group to an extension of the existing apprenticeship scheme based on the one already in place under Neville Smith in New Zealand.

The line up of GEON general managers is:


  • Lyall Perry – Agency Graphic World, Sydney, NSW
  • Simon Rubinstein – Graphic Printworks, Oakleigh South, Vic
  • Garry Nankervis – Impact Printing Brunswick, Vic
  • Mandy Saad – AP Mail, Sydney, NSW
  • Mark Mina – AP Mail, Sydney, NSW
  • New Zealand

  • Neville Smith – Brebner Print, Auckland, NZ
  • Warren Herbert – BPG, Auckland, NZ
  • Andrew Maclaurin – Printco, Auckland , NZ
  • James Barham – Bays Press, Albany , NZ
  • Shayne Williams – BFG, Wellington, NZ
  • Roger Kirwan – Kiwi Labels, Christchurch, NZ
  • Mark Gilmer – Albion Graphics, Wellington, NZ
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