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‘Friends Reunited’ as Woodall Nicholson Group attracts new Investors

Woodall Nicholson Group – one of the UK’s longest established coachbuilding businesses – has been acquired by new investors.

Mosaic Private Equity, RooGreen Ventures LLP and Enterprise Ventures have each made a significant investment in the business, which has a turnover of £24m and employs 180 people at factories in Westhoughton and Rochdale.

Woodall Nicholson, which incorporates Coleman Milne, Mellor Coachcraft and Mellor Vancraft manufactures and sells funeral vehicles, buses, and specialist vehicles for the emergency services.  Its history dates back to the 1820’s when its major activity was building horse-drawn hansom cabs and carriages.

The deal brings with it a re-union of ‘old friends’, given that the principals and investors – Brian Davidson, Paul Newton, Mike Rogan, Jonathan Diggines and Warwick Ley all worked together on the very successful acquisition of Scarborough based Plaxton Coachbuilders in 2004.

As part of the deal, Geoff Hudson, who has been with the business for over 30 years and is currently Group Sales Director, becomes Managing Director, while his two colleagues and co-shareholders will retire from the business.

Paul Newton, who along with Mike Rogan led the deal on behalf of Mosaic Private Equity said of the investment: “We have been tracking this business for some time now and as soon as the opportunity opened up we contacted Brian, given our friendship and positive experience with him in the sector.  We are delighted to have brought together an innovative funding model and a high caliber team of managers and investors to complete the deal.  This speaks volumes for the quality of the Woodall Nicholson business and reinforces our mantra that it’s not just the money, but the people that make the difference”.

Brian Davidson of RooGreen Ventures LLP will become Chairman of the group, while Paul Newton and Mike Rogan of Mosaic Private Equity and Warwick Ley of RooGreen Ventures will join the Board as Non-Executive Directors.  When asked to comment on the deal Brian said: “This is a bit of a departure from my normal transactions in that we have invested in a business which is already performing extremely well and has been well managed.  I am hopeful that we can make the business even better and use it as a launchpad to grow a larger scale automotive business”.

Investment Director Wayne Thomas led the deal on behalf of Enterprise Ventures.  Jonathan Diggines, Managing Director of Enterprise Ventures, said: “Enterprise Ventures is all about supporting business growth.  We are delighted to be financing such an important North West manufacturing business, with a heritage dating back for almost two centuries and strong growth potential”.

Also joining the management team, as Group Finance Director, is Dan Jackson, formerly Corporate Finance Partner at Langtons Chartered Accountants.

The deal was supported by a finance package including senior debt and working capital facilities arranged by Paul Thomas and Steve Alcock at the company’s incumbent bankers, NatWest.

John Daly of RSM Tenon advised the vendors, while his colleague Stephen Green provided Vendor Due Diligence.  Jonathan Robinson of DWF provided legal advice to the investors, while Chris Moss of JMW Solicitors advised the vendors, Tim Fearn and Andy Phillips of Pinsents advised Enterprise Ventures and Rob Fawke of Pannone advised the Bank.  Tax advice for Newco was provided by Steve Talbot of Langtons.

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