UK: BUYING IN TROUBLE - DANNY CHAPCHAL.

UK: BUYING IN TROUBLE - DANNY CHAPCHAL. - Danny Chapchal would really like to be a DJ on Classic FM - the perfect outlet, he says, for his obsession with classical music. He claims to have one of the biggest private collections anywhere: 6,000 CDs, 6,000

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Danny Chapchal would really like to be a DJ on Classic FM - the perfect outlet, he says, for his obsession with classical music. He claims to have one of the biggest private collections anywhere: 6,000 CDs, 6,000 cassettes and 2,000 LPs. But still he manages to find time for his day job.

Chapchal's reputation is as a skilled company doctor in the hi-tech end of the printing business - and lately it has been given its harshest test. In January last year, with backing from British and Dutch venture capitalists, he acquired Atex, the supplier of newspaper computer systems.

Despite its solid customer base - more than 800 titles around the world use it, including the Telegraph, Guardian, Independent and Murdoch-owned newspapers - Atex had haemorrhaged losses of nearly $100 million in the previous three years. The then owner, Kodak, was happy to be rid of it - at a price so embarrassingly low that the company refused to disclose it.

Now, after 18 months under Chapchal's control, Atex is once again profitable and sales are climbing. Though essentially a US company based in Massachusetts, Chapchal has installed a largely British management team. And though he spends 40% of his time in the US, he admits the company's centre of gravity has now moved to Surrey.

Now 49, Chapchal built his reputation by turning round a number of young electronics businesses. Indeed, it was back in 1981 that he suggested to his employer, Linotype, that the way out of its troubles was to buy Atex - then the rising star of computerised typesetting. 'Unfortunately, Kodak beat us to it,' he says.

So far he has delivered $500,000 of profits and raised sales from $47 million to $55 million. Success, in business, he reflects, comes from recognising that the major asset is people. 'You can run a company with lousy products and good people more successfully than a company with good products and lousy people,' he says.

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