Pat Rafter

Pat Rafter

Pat Rafter, the co-founder of Excel Publishing, has taken full control of the company after buying out fellow co-founder, Martin Regan and company chairman, Pat Quinn.

Employing 90 staff, Excel is one of the North’s largest, independently-owned publishing companies.

The value of the acquisition has not been disclosed, however, Rafter is understood to be keen to bring in more contract titles and develop the promotional side of the business, while Regan has decided to pursue more “traditional publishing activities.”

Regan will be taking a number of localised website and domains including  Cheshire Today. These he intends to turn into print titles, starting with Macclesfield this summer and he’s already in the process of recruiting journalists.

“We started life as a content-led publishing company but as a newspaper man, I increasingly missed a news-led agenda and I decided that my next move would be going back to my roots in journalism and publishing,” explained Regan.

“I think the death of print publishing is, to paraphrase Twain, greatly exaggerated.

“As long as your delivery combination of print and digital is anchored in good quality content, you will find an audience that will engage editorially and commercially.”

Excel was established in Manchester by Rafter, Regan and Ann Pellow.  Rafter managed the sales operation of the young company while Regan oversaw editorial.

Pellow sold her stake a couple of years later.

Martin Regan

Martin Regan

Excel initially concentrated on construction titles but it began to grow more rapidly as it diversified into contract publishing and at one stage, in pre-recession 2008, the company employed over 120 staff across Manchester and a sizeable office in Leeds.

The Yorkshire operation was closed in December last year.

The bulk of the company’s publishing activities are national in scope but it’s perhaps best-known in the North for its EN monthly business title. The print version was suspended in 2011 but an online edition is still produced.

For the year to December 2011 (the final year for which accounts were available), the company had sales of just over £4m.

Its portfolio of products include several of its own construction and business titles together with various contract publications – the biggest by some distance being a RIBA contract – and around 10 Chamber of Commerce titles including Manchester and Liverpool and the Thames Valley and London.

Excel also stages a number of events and awards across the UK.

Last spring, in the face of traditional advertising declining sharply, a situation shared with the majority of primarily print publishers, Excel launched a new division selling promotional products; from pens and diaries to iPad covers. This offshoot is understood to be growing steadily and generating healthy profits, helping to balance the decline in ad revenue.