Airedale Group – the UK’s largest kitchen house and service firm – has confirmed a change in ownership structure involving its management team and a new investor backed by private capital.
The move is set to kick-start the next phase of Airedale’s growth plans, which is likely to see it make strategic acquisitions and even expand the business internationally.
All shares in the business are now owned by the Bradford-based outfit’s management team, led by CEO and main shareholder Rob Bywell, along with Rubicon Partners, a private equity firm that has made a “significant investment” in the group.
As a result, several minority shareholders, including Rockpool Investments, have sold their stake in the company, which delivers project and service work for many of the UK’s largest chains.
Airedale founders Peter Bywell and John Rhodes, meanwhile, are both retiring.
Rubicon Partners describes itself as a “hands-on investment partnership focused on the acquisition and long-term strategic development of complex industrial businesses in Europe and North America”.
Rob Bywell said the new ownership structure was a “significant and exciting step forward for the group”, which prior to the pandemic was turning over more than £40m a year.
He commented: “Over the last seven years, with support from Rockpool, Airedale has solidified its position as the leading kitchen design and installation business in the UK, while simultaneously building a truly national commercial kitchen maintenance platform.
“The acquisitions of SCC in 2014 and Flowrite in 2019 have allowed the group to create an unrivalled maintenance proposition with a combined total of over one 150 national service technicians.”
“For our next phase we have been looking for a partner with both industry experience and the financial capacity to help us grow to the next level in terms of service offering (both product and technology).
“We also wanted a partner that could assist the group in internationalising this service proposition. Rubicon is an ideal fit with a proven pedigree and a history of success in supporting businesses to reach their full potential.”
Mr Bywell said that Airedale’s philosophy is to continue to build a group of highly complementary brands that are specialists and leaders in their respective sectors, but will also work closely together to increase its value proposition to customers.
“With Rubicon Partners backing we have the capacity to make further investments, both in our current operations, and by seeking to acquire complementary businesses that will broaden and deepen the services we offer,” continued Mr Bywell.
“We intend to continue to deploy capital where we believe it aligns to our strategic vision and long term objectives. With the guidance of an experienced partner in Rubicon, we are looking forward to moving these plans on at pace.”
Mr Bywell also paid tribute to outgoing founders John Rhodes and Peter Bywell, who leave behind a business that now employs more than 300 staff.
“They were true entrepreneurs who not only had the enterprise to start and successfully grow Airedale into a major player, but also recognised its potential and supported a new management team to take the business forward. I know they are leaving, proud of what has been achieved over the last 35 years, and with the business in good shape for an exciting future.”