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Jill Cowling has been made group chief executive officer of New Zealand’s Blue Star Group, encompassing both the Blue Star and Webstar operations, the biggest print business in the country.

Blue Star Group CEO: Jill Cowling
Blue Star Group CEO: Jill Cowling

The new role running the Blue Star Group is effectively the biggest job in New Zealand print. Blue Star operates from ten loctions across New Zealand, with eight print and fulfilment centres stretching from Auckland to Dunedin. Webstar operates from plants in Auckland and Masterton.

Cowling was already CEO of Blue Star, and now takes over the Webstar business too, following the resignation of long-term incumbent Bernie Roberts. Cowling has been with Blue Star since 2012, and had a seven year stint with Blue Star Australia prior to that.

Roberts took over as CEO of Webstar nine years ago post-Geon, stepping up from general manager, and successfully navigated the business through Covid during New Zealand’s punishing lockdown policy, which included the complete shutdown of virtually all the country's magazine publishing. 

The Blue Star Group is owned by Mercury Capital and Tom Sturgess, with Webstar now the only heatset web printer on the North Island. Mercury also owns Webstar’s biggest customer, Are Media (formerly Bauer, formerly ACP).

Are Media now also owns what was Ovato’s NZ retail distribution business, while Ovato itself pulled out of New Zealand heatset earlier this year, closing its Auckland plant, leaving Webstar as the only heatset printer on the North Island. Independent operation Inkwise operates heatset on the South Island.

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