Webcrafters is being acquired by a Minnesota company, the CJK Group.


Madison-based Webcrafters, a leading educational book manufacturer that has taken a hit in recent years from internet trends, is being acquired by a Minnesota holding company.

The company’s CEO, Jac Garner, called the sale of the company to the CJK Group “a big step forward for Webcrafters.”

“The CJK Group has the right vision for making certain that Webcrafters has a durable and future-oriented strategy to continue as a key player in the marketplace and do that right here in the Madison area,” he said in a press release. “Both the ownership (the Frautschi family) and executive leadership see today as a great next chapter for Webcrafters.”

Founded in 1868, Webcrafters carved out a niche as an educational book producer and also manufactures atlases, trade publications and catalogues. But company officials have said that increases in the use of educational materials online and tight budgets for government clients have hurt business.

In 2015, the company slashed jobs by about 20 percent. An earlier round of cuts in 2012 slashed the workforce by 25 percent, then leaving the company with about 400 workers.

CJK spokeswoman Susan Wiercinski said Webcrafters currently has 270 employees. The company has two facilities, its main headquarters on Fordem Avenue on Madison’s north side, and a smaller production facility in Waunakee.

Wiercinski said she couldn’t disclose the terms of the sale, which involves two privately held companies.

The sale follows the death in March of Webcrafters owner John Frautschi.

CJK Group CEO Chris Kurtzman said the acquisition will boost CKJ’s expansion into the educational publishing market.

“With its significant platform of digital print and specialty finishing, Webcrafters along with CJK’s national portfolio of publishing, print and related services businesses, are well positioned to deliver value to an expanding customer base,” he said in the press release.

Wiercinski said the acquisition will help both companies contend with a changing print marketplace.

“From Webcrafters’ standpoint, what was important to them was to find another printing company that could take that business and move it forward in this very challenging industry we’re in,” Wiercinski said. 

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Webcrafters will be joining efforts with Hess Print Solutions, based in Brimfield, Ohio, which has a presence in the educational publication market.

“There’s some complimentary business there,” she said. “And it will also add some additional finishing technologies for us.”

Wiercinski said Webcrafters made the initial overtures to CJK.

“The board of directors at Webcrafters approached the CJK Group and talked to them about acquiring Webcrafters,” she said. “And they did that because of the complimentary business and complimentary values. The CKJ Group, their values, their outlook on business, they way they run their facilities and treat their employees was very much in line with the philosophy at Webcrafters.”

CJK Group’s holdings include Hess Print Solutions, Bang Printing in Brainerd, Minnesota, Sentinel Printing Company in St. Cloud, Minnesota, Victor Graphics in Baltimore, Sinclair Printing Company in Los Angeles and The Sheridan Group in Hunt Valley, Maryland.

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Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.