Employees Buy Sutcliffe Play
Sutcliffe Play has become the UK’s first and only employee owned playground equipment manufacturer.
The company, renowned for pushing the boundaries of play is looking forward to new challenges as company Chairman, Robin Sutcliffe hands over ownership of the company to its employees.
Robin’s dreams to maintain the company values he developed over many years have been realised with a majority of employees investing directly in shares. The buyout has been achieved with the support of specialist funders, Baxi Partnership, Co-operative & Community Finance, Barclays and The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.
Robin said: “Employee ownership has been a dream for almost 50 years. From the day I joined the family business my ultimate aim was to one day hand the reins of our business to its employees.
“In my experience employee ownership motivates and provides a level of commitment that is unusual in privately owned companies.
“It will give Sutcliffe Play an intellectual advantage over our competitors and a unique strength within the marketplace as employee owned businesses are almost always at the top end of their market and innovation. It gives us the opportunity to take risks, something which we already fully advocate at Sutcliffe Play.”
The UK Employee Ownership Index (EOI) shows that employee-owned companies continue to outperform the FTSE All-Share. In the third quarter of 2009, employee-owned companies’ share prices were up 27.6%, performing better than the FTSE All Share Companies’ share prices which were up 21.3% over the quarter.
Viv Jebson, Managing Director of Sutcliffe Play is confident that the company will continue to thrive under the ownership of its employees: “At a time when the UK manufacturing industry has suffered we have continually performed above target and we are looking forward to continued growth in the knowledge that the future of the company is in our own hands.
“The government has taken the lead in funding more places for children to play safely through its wide ranging Children’s Plan and we in turn have accelerated our growth. We now employ 90 people from our head office in an old mining village in Upton, Yorkshire and we’re in an excellent position to continue this growth to the benefit of the company, the employees and the local community.
“Employee ownership will make us more committed to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, and enables employees to share in the success and wealth of the business. I am delighted in the take up level of share ownership, it’s a true sign of our employees’ commitment to the future of this business.”
Under the guidance of Baxendale, a division of Baxi Partnership specialising in the delivery of consultancy, advice and hands-on support for employee owned companies, an Employee Benefit Trust has been established that will hold the majority of the shares in trust for all employees. In addition to its funding expertise, Baxendale just as crucially, has spent time coaching the staff taking up the employee ownership opportunity and helping them prepare for their new role as owners.
Andrew Harrison at Baxendale said: “Every employee ownership transition we work on is unique and we work diligently to identify solutions that achieve the right outcome for the owner and the employees. I'm really pleased that we've been able to realise Robin's dream of ensuring that the employees of Sutcliffe Play will be able to own their business for future generations. The employee buyout team was a joy to work with and I'm convinced that together we've designed the right foundations that will ensure that Sutcliffe Play continues to be a very successful manufacturing operation, and a very successful employee owned company.”
Ian Taylor of Co-operative & Community Finance said: “We are pleased to have helped finance this employee buyout. When I visited Sutcliffe Play I was impressed with everything I saw. It is a very professional and well managed business and I think it’s going to get even better now it’s employee-owned. It’s my experience that manufacturing businesses in particular benefit from the greater trust and transparency that employee-ownership and co-operative management bring.”
Stephen Pittam, Trust Secretary from York based The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust commented: “As part of our portfolio of ethical investments we are interested in working with Baxendale on increasing opportunities for employees to own their own businesses. We are particularly pleased that our first investment in this field is in support of a Yorkshire based company engaged in the socially useful business of designing and manufacturing creative play equipment. We wish the employees of Sutcliffe Play every success as they take on this new adventure.”
Jon Lowe, Barclays Corporate Relationship Director and his team worked with Sutcliffe Play to provide finance for the deal and said: “Sutcliffe Play is a fantastic example of a business that is thriving and growing in difficult economic conditions and it’s been a real pleasure to work with the Sutcliffe Play team to help them achieve their buyout plans. The manufacturing sector is an important sector for Barclays and we are delighted to support the growth plans of the company.”
Malcolm Harding, Audit Director at KPMG in Leeds added: “Transactions involving trusts and employee ownership can be complex. Consequently, as the deal unfolded we advised Sutcliffe Play on financial and tax structuring and having worked closely with Andrew Johnson of KPMG’s employee tax practice and specialist law firm Wrigleys, I have taken great satisfaction in helping the team to a successful outcome and ultimately realising Robin’s dream.”
To learn more about Sutcliffe Play please visit www.sutcliffeplay.co.uk