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Continued: Glen Taylor: Soul of a billionaire

  • Article by: TERRY FIEDLER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 26, 1998 - 3:51 PM

Then Taylor cut the delivery time by scheduling and configuring things so that the invitations could be run as soon as they came in.

"It seems so obvious now. But other people were printers, while we were people getting the bride what she wanted," Taylor said.

But Taylor needed another innovation before he could buy the company in which he had invested so much energy.

Around 1966, Taylor devised a plan to become a millionaire. Wealth of any magnitude came through ownership, he thought, so he had to persuade his boss to sell him a part of the business. Before that, though, he had to find a way to get some money to buy that  stake.

Taylor asked if Carlson would share some of the profits if
Taylor could boost business far above expectations without any
additional costs. Carlson was skeptical but agreed.

Taylor then put his farm-boy handiness to work. Taking old
parts from a car, a heating element from a stove and a tube from a
TV, he rebuilt a stamping press so that it could put a design and a
name on a napkin in one step, rather than two.

Taylor's innovation saved about a penny per napkin. And that
penny a napkin bankrolled a billion-dollar fortune.

Striking a deal

Within eight years, Taylor had saved enough to confidently
strike a deal for majority ownership. Taylor says he agreed to pay
"more than $1 million" for a business with about $5 million in
annual revenue. Bill Carlson agreed to let Taylor pay him, with
interest, over 12 years. Taylor would pay him off in 10.

Taylor made the first of what would be many acquisitions in
August 1975, when he bought McPherson's, a struggling wedding
invitations company in Indiana with less than $1 million in annual
sales.

Taylor kept the McPherson's name and got the seller to provide
financing. In most cases thereafter, he purchased companies with
Taylor Corp. cash.

"I remember my uncle saying that life is good when you have
your house paid for," Taylor said. "You just didn't have debt."

Taylor generally retained management while providing new
investment and new ideas.

Because Taylor Corp. operates under the names of the businesses
it acquires, the company is something of an enigma.

"I can tell you that prior to the sale of the company, I had
never heard of Taylor Corp.," said Steven Singer, whose family sold
Amsterdam Printing in Amsterdam, N.Y., to Taylor in 1996. "I had
heard of some of his individual companies, and I was surprised and
impressed as I found out more and more."

Taylor Corp. also opened its own plants in Texas, California
and New Jersey during the 1970s and, by the 1980s, the company had
plants nationwide.

To get those far-flung facilities off the ground, Taylor
exported Mankato State graduates, many of whom had come through the
ranks as part-time college workers. Many of the company's senior
executives are MSU alumni.

Taylor says that he can relate to Mankato State grads and that
he trusts them. "They went to school at MSU because the cost was
low. Their families didn't come from money. They all had to work
their way through school, and many were getting good grades doing
it."

When it comes to people, Taylor says, he can be an "impulse"
buyer. "I'm a mathematician by education, but I have this other
thing. A gut instinct."

His instincts have built a company with some 70 operating
divisions in 17 states, three Canadian provinces and five other
countries. Taylor Corp. is by far the largest wedding invitation
printer in the country, with 50 percent of the total market and an
estimated 90 percent of the formal invitation market, which carries
the highest margins, according to Harris DeWese of Compass Capital
Advisors.

Taylor Corp. also dominates the national printing market for
company stationery, W-2 forms and business cards. It's the leading
printer of customized Post-it Notes in the country. Taylor Corp. not
only directly supplies IBM's stationery and American Express'
business cards, it's the behind-the-scenes provider of printing
services offered by Office Depot and Staples.

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