Printer Clays which produced Harry Potter series sold to European group

Bungay book printers, Clays Ltd.PHOTO: Nick Butcher

Bungay book printers, Clays Ltd.PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

A printer which produced the Harry Potter series is beginning a new chapter after being sold to a European group in a £20m deal.

The covers of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The series was printed by Clays in Bungay.

The covers of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The series was printed by Clays in Bungay. Picture: PA - Credit: PA

Bungay-based Clays has been sold by St Ives to Italian printing firm Elcograf.

The company, which produces black-and-white and colour books at its 19-acre site, reported a turnover of £77.7m and loss before tax of £1.6m in the year to July 28.

St Ives will retain the freehold on the Bungay premises but has agreed a long-term lease with Clays and will also retain the pension liabilities associated with the firm.

Paul Hulley, managing director of Clays, said: 'I am delighted that a new era is beginning for Clays as we become part of the Elcograf Group. For over 200 years Clays has been producing some of the most well known and best selling books in the UK for a range of publishing clients, with a focus on service and quality. Beginning as a family business, we have thrived in public ownership under St Ives since 1986 but this is the right time for change. Our new owners are one of Europe's largest and most ambitious print groups, strongly backed by the Pozzoni family in Italy, and are the best possible home for Clays.

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'Whilst we continue to operate in a challenging market, as part of the Elcograf Group we are able to face the future with confidence in our ability to think and invest for the long term, continuing the Clays tradition of being a major force in the fluid and evolving markets in which we operate.'

Matt Armitage, chief executive of St Ives, said: 'Today's sale of Clays is a major milestone for St Ives, which will allow our senior management team to focus entirely on growing the group's strategic marketing businesses, both in the UK and internationally.

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'Over 50 years ago, St Ives was founded as a print business. But as our markets and customer preferences changed, we too evolved, reducing our exposure to the commoditised print markets while embracing the digital world, becoming a leader in the marketing services industry through acquisition and organic growth.

'This transformation began in 2010 and, following the recently announced disposals of our legacy print businesses, we are now a more focused strategic marketing group, well equipped to deliver the exciting next stage in St Ives' evolution.

'We would like to take this opportunity to thank our colleagues from Clays for all their hard work and dedication over the years, and we wish them every success in the future.'

Last year the company revealed it was considering redundancies after losing a contract to print monochrome books for HarperCollins, which resulted in a multi-million pound hit to sales.

Didy Ward, chairman of the Bungay Events and Business Association, welcomed the news and said it was positive to see the firm taken over by a group dedicated to print.

She said: 'We sincerely hope that the new owners recognise the esteem in which Clays is held and build on its heritage as they attempt to make it more profitable.'

A history of Clays

Clays was founded 200 years ago in London and specialises in the production of monochrome paperback and hardback books.

Starting life as a family firm it moved to Bungay with the acquisition of the print business of Charles Child in 1876.

It began mass production of paperbacks in the 1930s and was at the forefront of technological innovation for many years.

In 1986 it was bought by leading print company St Ives who owned it until the sale announced on Tuesday.

The company has produced best-sellers such as the Harry Potter series as well as Man Booker Prize winner A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James.

Who is Elcograf?

Elcograf is a producer of books, catalogues and magazines based in Verona and a member of the Pozzoni Group.

It was formed out of Pozzoni's takeover of Mondadori Printing in 2008 and has since grown to cover six sites and employ 900 people.

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