Poster printing

Joe Davis, successful ‘Rollup’ consolidator of printing industry, dies aged 79

Joe Davis ran a successful rollup consolidator in the commercial printing industry for nearly 30 years.

Joe R. Davis, who founded Consolidated Graphics (CGX), a commercial printing industry consolidation group based in Houston, Texas, in 1985, died September 1, 2022, at age 79 year. CGX eventually went public and expanded to more than 70 locations in 26 states and three continents via M&A transactions under his nearly three-decade stewardship as Founder, Chairman and CEO, before selling CGX to RR Donnelley (RRD) in 2013 for an estimated $620 million, plus the assumption of debt from CGX.

(Read my commentary on the CGX-RRD transaction here, written in 2013 after the announcement of the acquisition.)

Joe Davis was inducted into the Printing Impressions/RIT Hall of Fame in 1998.

Joe Davis was a 1998 inductee into the Printing Impressions/RIT Hall of Fame.

Joe, who made the cover of Print impressions several times over the years – including his induction in October 1998 into the Print impressions/ RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame – easily served as the poster child of the commercial printing industry’s “rollup” bunchers. CGX’s business model was to primarily target standalone sheetfed printing operations for acquisition and to encourage existing management to stay and run their businesses independently under their current names, while building on purchasing power and resources of a national organization.

Joe’s consolidation strategy itself was conceived as a result of his experience at accounting firm Arthur Andersen, where he observed the consolidation of other fragmented industries. The strategy of sticking with each company’s name and its management team was a no-brainer, Joe said. Print impressions in 1998.

“If you have a successful business, there’s a reason it’s successful,” he explained at the time. “Generally, customers patronize a business because they get good service and a good product at a reasonable price.”

Chris Colville, then CGX’s executive vice president of mergers and acquisitions, revealed that it was part of Joe Davis’ recipe for success. “There’s deep experience of individual company presidents and their leadership, and Joe is smart enough to step back and let those teams do their job,” Colville pointed out in 1998. “He’s very hands-on and brings a important contribution, but at the end of the day, he is willing to let his leadership team in their fields manage and direct their businesses and instead become a leader, mentor and advisor.

“I don’t run these companies,” Joe argued. “It’s the presidents of companies. If they do well, I want presidents to be able to take credit for it. If they do badly, I don’t want them to be able to say, ‘I I’d better’ if it wasn’t for Joe in Houston. Key to our philosophy is giving presidents what they need to run their businesses,” he noted.

Joe Davis was a visionary in other areas as well. He developed a formalized leadership development program to inspire university graduates to take a fast-track path to management within CGX companies – a novel concept long before the current skilled labor crisis and the future labor market crisis. leadership, which is partly caused by the lack of bright young people entering the printing industry.

Joe Davis has assembled a strong management team to help execute numerous M&A transactions.

While several other print industry rollups failed during this time – including Master Graphics, Printing Arts America, Nationwide Graphics, Kelmscott Communications, and IGI/EarthColor – Joe proved that industry rollups of printing could succeed if they followed the successful operational formula he developed.

A solid foundation for business success

As noted in his obituary, Joe was born March 11, 1943, in Texarkana, Arkansas, and grew up near Ogden. He spent his early years carefully watching his father and mother transform their small country store into a thriving business, eventually leading to a large family farm, run by his older brother.

Joe learned to negotiate with sellers and buyers, to discern good customers from bad ones, and to show charity to those in need. His business interest and acumen were born at an early age, and later he regaled his friends with funny business stories at the country store and produced bargain sales from the back of his truck.

Joe was also exceptionally bright and an excellent student. He attended the University of Arkansas, majoring in math and accounting, graduating in his class of 1965. After graduating, Joe was hired by one of the top accounting firms of the country, Price Waterhouse. Within three years, another “Big 8” firm, Arthur Andersen, recruited him. Joe progressed rapidly at Arthur Andersen and was admitted as a partner in 1976. He led numerous audits of the firm’s top clients, all with his commanding presence and deep, unmistakable voice.

Everyone who knew Joe respected him for his high standards, fairness, business judgment and leadership skills. His exceptional business acumen contributed to his success, first at Arthur Andersen and certainly later in the transformation of CGX into a national powerhouse in the printing industry.

Joe Davis was predeceased by his parents, JB and Lucille Davis; his older brother, Kenneth Davis; and his nephew, Donald Davis. He is survived by his wife and best friend, Rickie P. Davis; his children, Phillip Davis and his wife Anne, and Mike Davis and Carrie DeLaRosa; his grandchildren, Whitney Davis Lombardy, Lauren Davis, Connor Davis, Cameron Davis, Carson DeLaRosa and Mayson DeLaRosa; and many great-nieces and great-nephews.

Friends are invited for a visit with family from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, September 7, in Geo’s library and large foyer. H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston.

A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, September 8 at the Sanctuary of the Second Baptist Church, 6400 Woodway Drive in Houston. Immediately afterwards, attendees are invited to greet the family at a location to be announced during the service.

The family will gather for a private interment at Ashdown Cemetery in Ashdown, Arkansas at a later date.

Joe R. Davis was a true icon and innovator in the printing industry. Although he is now gone, he will never be forgotten by the many people he met and whose lives he touched during his career in the industry.