Dealer bought out of administration

Stockport distributor Design Catering Equipment has been rescued from administration after one of its original founders yesterday stepped in to buy the business, backed by Francis Catering Equipment.

Paul Rawlinson, who co-founded the business in 1990, is returning to his role as managing director of the firm after successfully purchasing the assets and intellectual property of the company from the administrators BDO.

The deal was done with the support of Francis Catering Holdings, one of the most established catering equipment distributors in the Midlands. It becomes the majority shareholder in DCE.

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Rawlinson has vowed to restore the reputation of a business that he led over a period of 21 years, building an annual turnover of £12m and employing 35 staff before exiting in 2011 following an MBO.

“I am determined to re-establish the reputation of Design Catering Equipment and re-build the business as a supplier of choice to the construction industry and a well-regarded employer in Stockport,” he said.

DCE will operate from the same premises in Stockport and is already in discussion over some new contracts. The assets that Rawlinson has acquired include a full customer history going back to 2004, so it hopes it can build on past relationships.

At its peak, the company was a leading supplier of new school kitchens for five years during the BSF scheme and worked with 18 of the Major Contractors Group construction companies, installing kitchens nationwide.

Neil Humphries, managing director of Francis Catering Holdings, said he was delighted to be involved in the venture.

“Following initial discussions with Paul regarding the demise of Design Catering Equipment, I quickly realised that his passion and professionalism should not be lost to the industry. I have great pleasure in partnering with Paul in this new venture which I am sure will be very successful.”

Rawlinson retired from the business three years ago when an MBO saw DCE sold to Robin Williamson and Stephen Hewitt, both of whom had worked for the business for an extensive period of time.

However, their time at the helm ended in March this year when the company went into administration. The pair are now spearheading a new distributor business called The Design House, which has the backing and support of Bradford distributor Airedale.

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