ESP Group

Quicker Better Cheaper
ESP Group is a world class business for litho and digital printing with a reputation among global technology giants as having ‘the most efficient print rooms in Europe’. Employing 150 staff, ESP Group’s turnover reached £20million in 2022. Turnover split is roughly £12.5 million for litho arm ESP Colour and £7.5 million for digital factory ESP Smile.

Using world class technology and manufacturing, ESP Group produces a huge array of highest quality printed products at the lowest sustainable price. The aim is to get the right content to the right place at the right time.

The group operates out of two leased premises, with 7,400 square metres across the two, which are based a mile apart in Swindon, Wiltshire. In addition to litho and digital printers, the group operates long sheet printers with finishing and other specialist equipment dedicated to the gifting market.

ESP Group has been a customer of Compass for over 15 years. In late 2022, it was acquired in an MBO (Management Buy Out). Management team Chief Executive Officer Simon Smogur, sales director Sam Purchase, and finance director Ben Forsey completed the deal to buy the print group from previous CEO Paul Bradley. The deal achieved Bradley and the management team’s objectives of taking the business forward in an amicable controlled manner with a young ambitious management team, on a strong financial footing.

The funding was to raise the initial £1.3m consideration, which was provided through a mix of lending from Compass, the lead on the project, and Close Brothers in a broker agreement. Both utilised existing assets that had equity, whilst at the same time managing the cash repayments of the business.

Simon has been with ESP for eight years, having joined in January 2015 as chief financial officer. He set up digital factory ESP Smile at the group and became managing director around three years later. He was instrumental in working with Bradley to ensure the business was in good shape for the takeover, and for the long-term direction of the business. Purchase joined from ITG three years ago and has helped to position and establish ESP in the correct markets, while Forsey joined 12 months ago in readiness for the MBO and the management team’s plans going forward.

Handel Group is a group company that now owns the majority share of ESP Group. Smogur owns 68% of Handel Group, with Purchase owning 22%, and Forsey owning 10%. Together Handel Group owns 90% of ESP Group, with Bradley – who has now left the business – retaining a 10% share of ESP Group.

Simon Smogur Headshot

Simon said: “Compass is flexible and can move at speed, which is important, particularly with MBOs, when reacting to market trends or machinery investments – the agility of Compass makes the process a whole lot smoother.”

“It’s obviously important to provide the correct information, business plans, company background, main customers and interested partners etc. However, in all honesty, the personal relationships stand for more. Ultimately it comes down to dealing directly with someone, where there is total trust between the parties.

“With Compass, you can just pick up the phone and talk through funding and other options, which is vital if you’re trying to decide on something like business acquisitions, finance for machinery, expanding a business and so on. What I have found with people like Mark at Compass is that I can phone them virtually any time of day and have a frank conversation. I will get information I need straight away and an honest appraisal and an indication of whether it’s going to work for both parties. That’s what sets them apart – it’s much easier than liaising with a bank!”

“Compass also goes the extra mile. As an example, I was introduced to a third party in the USA by Mark through his own network, but he didn’t benefit directly. Again, you would not be able to give that level of service to an individual from a large institution like a bank.”

“When you do an MBO you need to ensure a business is on a sound footing – it’s a bit like having a baby or buying a new house, there’s never a right time and you always think of reasons to put it off. And in the last couple of years there’s been quite substantial, world changing reasons, but the business is in a very good position, and the time was right, so it made sense to crack on. Compass made the whole process a whole lot smoother than it could have been.”

Simon concluded: “We’re quoted as the most efficient print rooms in Europe by both Heidelberg and Kodak. This also means a lot to us, and we are obviously doing a lot right!”

ESP Group Logo

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