Astron was a leader in the field of document management and associated business process outsourcing services, with operations in the UK, Europe, the US, India and Sri Lanka.
Subsequent to our exit, the business rebranded and is now a core part of the Global Document Solutions business unit of RR Donnelley, a Fortune 500 company based in Chicago.
Within the print management marketplace, contracts were becoming larger and more complex and customers were increasingly comfortable with outsourcing print management contracts to bigger suppliers with a demonstrable track record.
We had been working with Bob Thian, the former chief executive of publishing company HMSO (later The Stationery Office), with a view to acquiring a business in this space and helping it compete for the growing number of large outsourcing contracts. In early 2000, we bought the platform businesses, Tactica for about £55m.
Following the acquisition of Tactica, we swiftly set about growing the business through buy and build, completing the £23m acquisition of Astron in December 2000.
Astron’s chief executive, David Mitchell, became chief executive of the newly merged Tactica and Astron entity. Under his leadership, we continued with a significant buy and build programme, making three further add-on acquisitions, culminating in the £130m purchase of edotech in April 2004. These acquisitions enabled the company to expand its service offering, geographic coverage and to reach the scale necessary to tender for major contracts.
Towards the end of 2004, we commenced a dual track exit process which concluded with the £520m trade sale to RR Donnelly announced in April 2005, generating a 5.4x return and an IRR of 40%.