When Allan Howard Creel took the helm of Creel Printing from his parents, Eugene and Sarah Creel, in 1970, it already was a successful multiplatform enterprise that had grown to almost 50 employees since its humble genesis in 1952 at its original location on Main Street.
Today, the business is among the largest printing companies in the country, coming in at No. 35 on the 2016 Printing Impressions 400 and reporting most recent fiscal year sales of $130.1 million, a 4 percent increase over the previous year.
A pioneer in digital printing, Creel’s capabilities include full-color web and sheet-fed printing, variable digital production, digital-rights management, mobile marketing, web-based storefronts, and integrated publishing and digital solutions.
With about 800 employees, Creel has six locations, including its 250,000-square-foot headquarters on Sunset Road. It has digital facilities in Las Vegas, Idaho, New Jersey and California, as well as a plant in France.
The company recently entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by Chicago-based LSC Communications. The sale (the terms of which have not been announced) will have little effect on local operations, according to Creel Sr., who has watched the company grow along with Southern Nevada.
“When the company was founded in 1952, there were only two other printing companies in town,” said Creel, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday and now serves as company chairman. He passed the titles of president (2011) and CEO (2015) to his son, Allan Gary Creel.
“Back then, it was all letter-press equipment, and my dad was the first to put in offset presses,” Creel continued. “We went into the catalog- and magazine-printing business, and did work for the Las Vegas Convention Center before it was even built. We also had the hotel business — El Rancho, Riviera, Desert Inn and the Flamingo. The city was totally different back in those days. People were riding horses on the Strip.”
A graduate of Las Vegas High School who studied business and drama at UNR, Creel went on to attend Woodbury Business College in Los Angeles. He returned to Southern Nevada when his father fell ill and asked him to come home and take the reins of Creel Printing.
Along with his wife, Debbie Creel, who has a background in finance and oversees accounting functions for the company, Creel has been a driving force for the company and an advocate for Southern Nevada. Gov. Grant Sawyer appointed him to the Nevada Employment Security Council in 1966 and he served until 1969.
“The Creel name is a pioneer name in this community, and Creel Printing grew to become the benchmark for quality in the printing industry in Las Vegas and beyond,” said advertising guru and international media consultant Sig Rogich, president of advisory firm the Rogich Communications Group.
“I have known Allan Creel Sr. since 1970 or so when we met socially, but I really got to know him in 1974, when I started R&R Advertising and needed a printer,” Rogich said. “It took a while for him to know that we were going to potentially be a good customer, because R&R started out as a small three-person operation. However, it quickly grew and I became Allan’s largest customer. He never let me down, and that’s the way it’s been with our business relationship and our friendship to this day.”
Brian Greenspun (CEO of Greenspun Media Group, which publishes VEGAS INC), also has a long-standing business and personal relationship with Creel.
“My wife and I have been close friends of Allan and Debbie for as long as I can remember, and I have also been a consistent and continuing customer through Greenspun Media Group, as well as a business partner in various other ventures,” Greenspun said.
“Yes, (Creel) has been sold, but Allan Jr. will remain at the helm to continue a family stewardship well into the future, carrying on the legacy that Allan Sr. and Debbie gave life to,” Greenspun added. “It ain’t easy to be successful in a family business and it doesn’t often endure, but Debbie and Allan sure made it look that way. And as lifelong members of the community, I can’t remember Debbie or Allan ever saying ‘no’ to a charity, an individual or even a small business in need.”
Rogich expressed a similar sentiment, noting that the Creels have supported organizations such as Opportunity Village, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada, Boy Scouts of America and Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“I’ll bet there are 200 organizations that his company has helped, and I probably asked him to help 100 of those just by myself,” Rogich said. “And it was always the same answer: ‘Yes, we will do that for you.’ ”
Larry Ruvo, senior managing director of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Nevada and founder of the Keep Memory Alive foundation and the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, is another longtime Creel Printing customer and friend of the family, having known Creel for more than 40 years.
“He has been a wonderful friend, a great member of our community and a superb businessman, and we continue to do business with Creel Printing to this day,” Ruvo said. “Allan is an honest, honorable and hardworking man, and his word is his bond.”
Third-generation president and CEO Allan Gary Creel grew up in the family business. “My first job was cleaning the alley between the buildings, and I reported to the janitor,” he said. Creel held a number of positions over the years, learning the business from the ground up before assuming his current post.
A graduate of Bentley University who holds a degree in business management, the younger Creel is optimistic about the future of the company as well as the acquisition, which is expected to close this month.
“The alignment of the two companies will be a tremendous opportunity not only for our employees, but for our long-term customers and all of our clients,” he said. “With LSC Communications’ depth and with what we’ve done to drive technology in the printing industry in the past five or six years, we’ll be able to continue to grow the platform that was built on my dad’s success as a businessman not only here in Las Vegas, but on a national scale.”
Looking back, the company’s growth mirrored the city’s, Allan Howard Creel said.
“We feel like we were along for the maiden voyage, like being in Goldfield when they discovered gold,” Creel reflected. “We were proud to be a part of the initial growth of the city, the county and the state, and there’s also a great sense of pride in being able to pass the business along to my son as it was passed along to me. It’s a young man’s world, and with his advanced knowledge and his proficiency in electronics and the digital world, he can’t help but be successful.”