Paul V. Reilly’s Winning Strategy for a Changing Industry

Earlier this year, the Print & Graphic Communications Association honored Reilly (left) along with Yankees legend Mariano Rivera. “I said to Mariano, ‘I need to apologize, because I’m a lifetime Mets fan,’” Reilly recalls. “First, he gave me a dirty look… and then he broke into a huge smile.”

In the print industry, says Paul V. Reilly (’74, MBA ’76), “You need to have the ability to look forward and be open to new technology.” As a co-founder of New Direction Partners—the leading investment banking and financial advisory firm in the graphic communications industry—Reilly has been following that philosophy to success for more than 40 years.

The most popular methods of printing, Reilly explains, have evolved over the years, from photo engraving to offset to digital. “Technology has moved so quickly…. a blip since Gutenberg invented the printing press,” he says with a laugh.

A Queens native, Reilly began thinking big-picture before his career had even started. He followed up his finance studies with an MBA in Computer Methodology, an emerging field at the time. “It was clear that computers were going to take over the world,” he says. That combination of skills laid a unique career foundation.

He was recruited as a computer auditor at accounting firm Arthur Andersen, became a CPA, and was later hired by printing firm Polychrome, an Andersen client. Suddenly, printing became a major part of his life, and he dove into marketing and strategic planning, becoming general manager of Polychrome’s North American, South American, and Asian businesses.

Coincidentally, printing also played a part in his extended family. “My wife’s grandfather was a print salesman, and her father was a photo engraver,” he says. “When I told my father-in-law I was working in offset printing, he looked at me skeptically, and asked: ‘How are you going to take care of your family selling that?’”

But Reilly was already envisioning the industry’s future. While working for Pavey Envelope company (which evolved into Mail-Well), he pioneered a forward-thinking strategy, using technology to implement a one-stop, design-to-fulfillment approach. After overseeing global mergers and acquisitions (M&A) for the company, it rebranded as Cenveo in 1998, with Reilly becoming president, CEO, and chair of the board.

In 2009, he co-founded New Direction Partners, which concentrates on M&A advisory. Since then, New Direction has completed more than 200 transactions, with over $4 billion in sales value.

In March 2023, Reilly received the Print & Graphic Communications Association’s lifetime achievement award.

Reilly is now in the process of retiring as he winds down several of his New Direction projects—what he jokingly calls his “going-out-of-business sale”—and credits much of his success to working in the operations side, as well as the relationships he made with family businesses along the way. “I spoke the language of the people I was dealing with,” he says. “Printing and M&A is not just numbers: it’s people, systems, customers. That’s where the success lies.”


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