Ward resigns as AIW CEO

Big changes are afoot at Melbourne web offset printer AIW with chief executive Paul Ward moving on and director Peter Scanlon taking full ownership.

Richard Clark, son of retired AIW founder Peter Clark and current chief operating officer, will take over the top job from August 1 following Ward’s resignation.

Ward, who became chief executive in 2010, says ‘five years is about the right time for most CEOs’ and he will take up another executive job outside print.

“An opportunity presented itself and the time was right to hand over the reins to Richard, who is well respected internally, within the industry, and more importantly within our customer base,” he says.

“Our focus always has been and always will be on looking after our customers but new leaders will come with new ideas and I look forward to seeing AIW develop further under his leadership.”

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The change comes at the same time as, but independently of, Scanlon buying out a group of minority shareholders to take full ownership of AIW through his investment company Taverners Group.

The shareholders, who owned 38 per cent of AIW, included founding figures Peter Clark, Chris Jefferson, and Jim White, plus a few others still working in the business.

Clark, Ward and Jefferson will stay on as non-executive directors and lend their experience to the new executive.

Ward says while Scanlon now has full ownership he will continue to act as an investor, keeping the business at arm’s length and letting management run it.

“By doing this he has demonstrated to the market his belief and commitment in the future of catalogue and magazine printing and his long term commitment to this business,” he says.

AIW chairman Charles Garrard says Scanlon’s decision to buy them out stems from AIW’s plan to make some productivity upgrades without going into debt.

“We were at the stage where we needed some capital and since we are debt-free Peter decided to buy out the others instead of borrowing money,” he says.

The upgrades include buying some new smaller machinery, workflow and software upgrades, and changes to process. Scanlon will recoup the cost of investment through having sole ownership of the business and therefore its profits.

“AIW has maintained its focus on magazines and catalogues and the outlook for those products remains positive despite falls in prices and margins from overcapacity,” Garrard says.

“I think the industry will sort itself out over time.”

Peter Clark says it was always the intention for the mostly retired shareholders to eventually cash out their stakes and this was a good time to do it.

“Scanlon is taking a positive view of the business long-term and showing great confidence in the print industry,” he says.

Scanlon first bought into AIW more than eight years ago when some of the founding shareholder group wanted to cash out. Clark stepped down as chief executive in 2009 and Garrard acted as executive chairman until Ward was appointed.

With a turnover of more than $100m, AIW is the fourth biggest web printer in Australia after PMP, IPMG and Franklin Web.

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