November 1st, 2013
Academy for Chief Executives Member Case Study: Right Place, Right Time
Creativeevents, The Food and Drink company, provides top-end catering for all occasions. Major contracts include exhibition venues such as Earls Court, Olympia & Excel Exhibition Centres, well-known heritage sites such as Brooklands Motor Museum, National Army Museum and Dulwich Picture Gallery and high profile outdoor events including RHS Chelsea & Hampton Court Flower Shows and Lords Cricket Ground.
Featured twice as a Sunday Times Fast Track 100 company, the company was originally set up with a Princes Trust Loan by two brothers, Adrian and Ian Willson.
When it comes to getting the timing right for the sale of a business Adrian believes that being proactive is key. A few years ago it became clear to Adrian and Ian that challenging market conditions and an increased focus on risk meant that an SME company of their size was at a disadvantage when pitching against larger businesses. This was especially true for contracts in the culture and heritage sector such as museums and day visitor attractions.
“We were being judged more on our balance sheet rather than our track-record and capabilities. Even our bank, who had supported us from the start and with whom we had a great successful relationship, suggested that we look at additional funding through other external sources to support our growth requirements,” Adrian said.
“Up until then we had a fifteen year successful track-record and never once broke a banking covenant, so it was a surprise to find ourselves having to look outside of our financial bubble which we had been so dependent upon in the past. That said, we understood that in order to succeed in a depressed economic climate you have to look at opportunities and threats in different ways.”
It was a new challenge they quickly embraced and were soon talking to several major companies who were immediately interested in their company. “This whole process took over two years although it was well worth the time and effort to find the right company.
“There’s no doubt that if we had waited longer to sell that we could have earned more money, but we sensed that the timing was fertile and that it was a good time to sell. There were just too many reasons not to sell and we have not regretted our decision in any way since signing this new deal,” he concludes.
In August 2012, Creativeevents sold 51% for £6million to MITIE plc, a FTSE 250 facilities, property and energy management company which had a strong business but lacked presence in Creative’s sectors. So it was perfect timing from both sides.
Adrian believes that the support of his Academy Group 1 (which was chaired by Andrew Morris) played a key part throughout the sale process.
“I shared my vision with my Academy group from day one and the members challenged me to ask the right questions. They scrutinised every part of the deal, advised on Heads of Terms, the due diligence process, even suggested legal representation and helped us through many other potential hurdles at various stages of the sale.
“It really is like having ten high quality Board members who are there to help you, throughout the process from start to finish!” he concludes.