Private Equity Transactions Continue in Channel With Turnspire Investment in LMI


by Amy Weiss

In the latest of a string of mergers, acquisitions and capital investments, today private equity firm Turnspire Capital Partners announced it has made a strategic investment in LMI Solutions. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Turnspire, an investment firm that focuses on transforming industrial manufacturing and consumer companies, has made a “significant investment,” according to LMI CEO Gary Willert.

It will be interesting to see what transformations this investment will create for LMI, a firm that has already seen its share of them over its 20-plus year history. Starting in 1997 as a cartridge remanufacturer producing around 1,000 cartridges per month, today LMI identifies itself as a “managed print services infrastructure provider,” and is a R2 certified manufacturer, distributor and recycler of premium replacement toner cartridges, imaging supplies and remanufactured printers, distributing more than 5,000 SKUs. All of this has taken place under the leadership of Willert, who founded the company in 1997 and will continue on in the position of CEO. “I have a huge interest in the future of the company,” said Willert.

“We ran a pretty tight ship and did things well,” Willert continued. “[Turnspire] will help us expand and grow, and bring us to the next level, maintaining the same high standards we’re used to.” Part of that growth involves another industry veteran: Sebastian Bretschneider. A private equity executive, Bretschneider served as interim CEO of Katun in 2015. He has acted as a consultant in the transaction, according to Willert, and while he will not be involved in day-to-day operations, he will serve on the board of directors and be “instrumental in helping us navigate in different channels we’re not into right now,” said Willert.

When we chronicled LMI’s evolution in this 2014 article, the remanufacturing industry had just gone through a major shakeup — the acquisition of MSE by Clover. It was one of the final steps in a long line of consolidations of cartridge remanufacturers with names that may ring bells if you’ve been around long enough — MKG, Multi-Laser, Teckn-O-Laser, Laser Imaging, PTi, West Point Products, and many others I’ve probably forgotten. Many of these names from the past have ended up under the Clover umbrella, while others are simply gone.

LMI had done its own share of acquiring over the years, including printer remanufacturers Printersdirect and Global Printer Services, and parts supplier Parts Now. Will the trend continue? Private equity companies do tend to continue to add on, and a quick search for M&A activity in 2018 alone yields two pages of results. And the imaging channel continues to be lucrative, in spite of the many unfounded rumors regarding the death of print — just see what this panel at last year’s Executive Connection Summit had to say on the subject.

Willert himself feels there is still a bright future in the United States for high-quality remanufactured products — “everyone’s trying to get a share of the market,” he said. But as has always been the case for LMI, it is the value-adds they bring to the market that separate them — the firm was a pioneer in aligning itself as a vertically integrated offering with value-add solutions. That may be key for LMI and Turnspire. “We’re open to any type of company that’s near to what we do,” Willert said, noting that Turnspire has some aggressive plans that include potential acquisitions down the road.

Perhaps most importantly, though, on the surface the only changes for customers should be improvements. The management, company name and branding will remain the same, but there will be some improvements, such as an expanded sales force. “It will be business as usual with a big plus,” said Willert — a plus that includes a lot of investment and big plans for the future.

is editorial director of BPO Media’s publications Workflow and The Imaging Channel, and senior analyst for BPO Research. As a professional writer and editor, she has specialized in the office technology industry for the last 20 years. Prior to that she worked in public relations and has a master's degree in communication arts.