Westbury Street Holdings (WSH) has acquired Searcys for an undisclosed sum following months of speculation over the future of the boutique caterer.
Searcys was put on the market last November with a price tag of £25m to £30m, with adviser BDO appointed to manage the sale. WSH has snapped up the business in its entirety despite speculation in February that the company may be broken up in a bid to attract buyers.
It was reported at the time that the sale was hoped to be completed by mid-March but the deal was sealed late yesterday afternoon (31 July 2014).
Managing director Chris Maddison, who stepped up to the role in April after his predecessor Doug Tetley left to head up Delaware North's UK operations, will stay on in his role after the transition to WSH while chairman Richard Tear is understood to be taking retirement.
WSH boss Alastair Storey will be chairman of Searcys, which joins a broad portfolio of foodservice businesses including B&I caterer BaxterStorey, school food brands Caterlink and Holroyd Howe, reception service firm Portico, and high street café chain Benugo, which joined the group in 2008.
Commenting on the decision to buy the business, Storey told The Caterer that he'd admired the company for many years. "Searcys is a fantastic brand. It has some great sites and venues and with that some great possibilities. It's been a bit of a drawn out process, as these things sometimes are, but we needed to make sure things were right."
Founded in 1847, Searcys currently has 20 sites and 1,082 employees, and reported an annual turnover of £42.6m for the 12 months to 30 June 2014. It will operate as a standalone entity, continuing a pattern displayed by WSH with past acquisitions, which Storey said was vital to the business. "If you take Benugo for example, they do their own thing and they are what they are. We have never tried to smother that; we try and encourage it," he said.
"The things that we can bring are financial stability and the ability to make capital investment, but actually Ben [Warner, founder of Benugo] and the team are fantastic and really know what they're doing. I discern these same qualities at Searcys. They just lacked that investment, help and support that is important for growth. Chris and the business will continue to run the business. We will try to develop it."
Maddison welcomed the move to WSH as an exciting opportunity for the company. "Searcys sits seamlessly alongside the other brands WSH owns and this transaction will provide the best of both worlds by ensuring that the company continues to operate independently, whilst having access to funding and advice that will provide a bright future.
"WSH has a great history of taking strong independent brands into its fold and helping them grow and prosper, whilst retaining the individuality that made them unique and appealing in the first place.
"Our clients will continue to receive the very highest standards of service and hospitality from the people that they know and trust, and our team will have access to training and development opportunities that are unrivalled within the industry."