Blue Star History

Blue Star has a significant history in New Zealand, beginning in the late 1980's as Panasonic Office Automation, part of Fisher & Paykel.

It became Blue Star Office Automation and in 1993 was sold to a group of investors who owned an Auckland commercial stationery outlet. They adopted the Blue Star brand and completed a number of stationery & office-related acquisitions.

US Office Products

Starting with 51% in 1995 and then moving to 100%, Blue Star was acquired by US Office Products, a company undertaking a global acquisition spree - largely in the 'contract' stationery sector.

In 1996 the USOP-owned Blue Star purchased Whitcoulls Group for $320 million. Whitcoulls Group included significant bookselling, stationery & print assets in New Zealand & Australia.

USOP focused on a significant acquisition strategy, purchasing approximately 25 businesses in 1997, 1998 & 1999, particularly focused on print & technology businesses.

Key additional acquisitions during USOP's tenure were McCollams (Auckland), Format Print (Wellington), Allmark Industries (Auckland), Link Printing (Sydney), Nicholson Print (Auckland), Craftsman Press (Melbourne), Rapid Labels (Auckland), Kings Mailing (Sydney) & Dunham Bremmer (Auckland). GP Print was reorganised into Printlink (Wellington) & Webstar (Masterton). By the year 2000, Blue Star had created a profitable and significant market share in the Australasian print sector.

US Office Products however, ran into difficulty during 2000 and Blue Star Group was broken up. The bookselling companies (incl. Whitcoulls, Angus & Robertson, London Bookshops, Bennetts) were sold to WH Smith, the stationery companies (incl OTC, Whitcoulls OP, Blue Star OP, School Supplies, Croxley) were sold to Boise Cascade, and the technology businesses (incl Wang, Ubix, Cogent, PC Direct) were sold to private investors associated with Eric Watson.

The print businesses were acquired by Tom Sturgess a year later in July 2001, retaining the Blue Star brand. Over the next five years Blue Star successfully consolidated its operations, and pivotally invested in the green-fields startup of Webstar in Sydney.

Champ Private Equity

Between 2007 and 2012 Blue Star Group was owned by Champ Private Equity. Whilst the businesses traded soundly during this period, the large quantum of debt used to fund the initial acquisition facilitated an agreement by the banks and the shareholders to divest the group.

New Owners

In January 2013 Blue Star's New Zealand businesses were acquired by Tom Sturgess & Mercury Capital No. 1 Fund. Mercury & Sturgess equally control BSP Holdings Limited, the new ultimate parent company of Blue Star's New Zealand businesses.

BSP Holdings Directors are Tom Sturgess (Executive Chairman), Clark Perkins (Mercury), Ben Hawter (Mercury) & Russell Hewitt (Independent). The new owners of Blue Star immediately organised the New Zealand group into three streams - commercial print, labels & web - with a CEO responsible for each.

Geon NZ

Late February 2013 the GEON Group went into receivership on both sides of the Tasman.

Early March 2013 Blue Star successfully acquired GEON Labels, the Christchurch-based label converter. Blue Star re-established it quickly on a going-concern basis, returning the business to its original Kiwi Labels brand, hired all staff and largely protected Kiwi from the damage of their parent company being in receivership. Kiwi is now a completely independent subsidiary of Hexagon Holdings.

Later in March, Blue Star agreed to buy selected assets, and hire selected staff, of GEON New Zealand's print business. GEON was subsequently liquidated, but many staff & clients, along with strategic equipment, joined Blue Star.

Brebner Print in Napier was owned by GEON and like Kiwi Labels, Brebner has been retained as an independent production business. Brebner has a strong regional market share, and several specialty print capabilities, which are complementary to Blue Star's wider offer.

Hexagon Holdings

In July 2014 the owners of Blue Star & Tiri Group brought together their labels assets, and formed Hexagon Holdings. Hexagon subsidiaries are independent businesses operating in labels & packaging.

The ownership and Board of Directors of Hexagon is the same as Blue Star Group.

Hexagon operates under a competitive business model, where the businesses openly compete with each other.

Looking Forward

Blue Star in New Zealand is now a well-funded confederation of independent print businesses.

In 2014, we refreshed the look of the Blue Star logo and rebadged our Print Management offer to be called Blue Star Works. We also established two significant new Distribution Centres for Blue Star Works - in Gracefield, Wellington (Oct 2014) & in Henderson, Auckland (Feb 2015).

Webstar has also been busy - investing in significant new equipment to broaden their offer to be stronger in the mailing & distribution of their printed outputs.

Blue Star is focused on improving our businesses, investing as required, enhancing the customer experience, broadening the product base, winning new clients, differentiating our offer and defending our right to a commercial return.

With the Blue Star acquisition of Wellington business Kinetic Digital in March 2015, and Hexagon's acquisitions of the Trans-Tasman Groups Hally in December 2015 and Adhesif Labels in April 2016, Blue Star, Webstar & Hexagon now jointly operate from 21 sites. With around 1240 staff and 18 company brands, this FY16 financial year, annual external sales will be $390 million.

We are committed to the essential industry we operate in, and we are positive about our role supporting New Zealand businesses.

We welcome any assistance to ensure 100% accuracy of this story. Please forward corrections to errors/omissions by emailing Errors and omissions excepted.