In its largest acquisition to date, Independent Publishers Group has acquired U.K.-based United Independent Distributors (UID) for an undisclosed price. IPG CEO Joe Matthews told PW that the deal was IPG’s biggest purchase “by far,” calling it a “game-changing acquisition”—one that will make IPG one of the world’s largest distributors. Through a series of acquisitions and organic growth, IPG has built the country’s second largest independent book distributor, trailing only Ingram Publisher Services.

UID was formed in 2019 when the Dulles, Va.–based Books International acquired the U.K.’s Marston Books Services and its Orca Books Services subsidiary. In May 2020, UID bought Eurospan in an effort to build a major U.K. sales and marketing agency for international academic, professional, and trade publishers. The deal also includes the distribution centers for Marston, Orca, and Turpin. Following the acquisition, the Marston facility will stay in Milton Abingdon, but the Turpin and Orca centers will move to a new “state-of-the-art” facility in that has been built in southeast England. Eurospan will retain its headquarters in London.

Matthews said that UID has about 500 clients, many of whom overlap with IPG's own publisher clients. Mark Chalonder, COO of UID, will stay COO, overseeing the U.K. companies.

With the acquisition, IPG will gain new core competencies, such as Eurospan’s global network of sales and marketing channels and Turpin’s journals business. The former UID entities will gain access to IPG’s proprietary e-book platform and digital print solutions.

In explaining the thinking behind the acquisition, Matthews said: “book distribution rewards scale. As a bigger, more geographically diverse company, we can make bigger investments in technology, gain greater access to book buyers, and fill more containers and cartons reducing overheads. In this era of consolidation across our industry, IPG will be big enough to offer the complete solution yet remain much smaller than our billion-dollar competitors. This will allow us to continue to provide greater attention and consultation than anyone else in the business.”

Matthews said that IPG’s immediate focus is on getting books sold through the next few months. Over time, he said, IPG will integrate various service offerings to make all service options, such as new reporting and analytical tools, available to all clients.

“This historic merger provides exciting new opportunities to expand the global reach of independent publishers on both sides of the Atlantic and creates an unrivaled menu of services to drive sales,” Matthews said. “I could not imagine a better way to celebrate IPG’s 50-year anniversary.”