Newco founders admit sale to JLA was ‘tough decision’

The founders of West Midlands catering equipment provider Newco have described their decision to sell the business as “one of the most difficult” they have ever had to face.

The Coventry-based outfit, a specialist in kitchen maintenance services but which had also expanded into project sales during the last two years, was recently bought out by acquisitive laundry and catering group JLA.

Janet Waters, who ran the family business with husband Michael, said that agreeing to give up ownership of the company they built from scratch was not a step they took lightly.

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“Selling Newco was one of the most difficult decisions we have ever had to make,” she told Catering Insight. “It has been our life, our passion and focus for the last 12 years and 2015 sees the company in the best shape it has ever been.

“We started out as a husband and wife team with an aim to provide excellent service to the catering industry throughout the Midlands, and today we have a team of 35 behind us — including our two sons — and a thriving £4m turnover business whose services now include the supply and installation of commercial equipment.”

JLA has shaken up the catering equipment reseller market with its aggressive acquisition strategy, backed by private equity firm HG Capital, which reportedly paid between £150m and £175m for the business five years ago.

Waters said that after receiving an approach from JLA, they were convinced to sell the business upon seeing the company’s vision for market growth.

She said: “When Michael received the telephone call from JLA’s CEO, Stephen Baxter, to express his interest in purchasing Newco, we were initially very flattered. Several meetings later, and having been shown JLA’s vision for a nationwide service for the catering industry, incorporating new products such as the rental of key pieces of equipment, it soon became clear how Newco could evolve being part of such an organisation.”

“Also, came the realisation on a personal level that we were ready for pastures new, having recently been blessed with a granddaughter and both of us have many interests and hobbies that we would like to pursue, so we felt the time was right to bow out.”

Although the pair, who worked together at Hobart before setting up the business, have now handed over the day-to-day running of Newco, they remain on hand in a consultancy capacity until the end of May.

Waters admits they will be sad to leave behind an industry where they have made so many friends. “We are very grateful to the industry for the life and experiences it has given us, we have met many people, some of whom have become life-long friends, and we would like to say a huge thank you to our suppliers and customers,” she said.

Newco is the seventh catering equipment distributor that JLA has acquired since it announced its intentions to become a serious player in the market by purchasing the Carford Group 18 months ago.

It has also bought Red Squared, CKM, Proton Washrite and Harmony Business & Technology as well as making its first acquisition in Scotland with the takeover of Aberdeen-based Comcat Engineering.

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