Former Gardman and Solus CEO Mark Pearson has taken the helm at Primrose following the online garden retailer’s acquisition by investors Rockpool.
The £6.5m deal was facilitated by bankers OakNorth. Primrose is the UK’s largest online pureplay garden retailer.
With Rockpool’s support, Primrose, with Pearson as CEO, aims to expand its product offering across new categories, invest in its website and further penetrate European markets
OakNorth deals with with private equity firms this year include those for Lonsdale Capital’s acquisition of Simmons Bars and Literacy Capital’s acquisition of Dartmouth Partners.
Rockpool has invested around £350m in 70 companies across a diverse range of industries since its inception in 2012.
Founded in 2003, Primrose has an active customer base of more than 2.5m people with its products sold in the UK, US, and Europe.
Rockpool has appointed highly-experienced private equity industry chairman David Brock as non-executive chairman and will appoint a further non-executive director to support the business, with one of their partners, Darran Green, attending Primrose board meetings as the investor representative.
While Rockpool hold a majority stake, the management team have also invested significantly.
There have been several investments by private equity firms in the UK garden sector over the past few years - Foresight Private Equity’s acquisition of Hobbies Direct in June, Midlothian and Hattington Capital’s acquisition of Dobbies Garden Centres in 2016, and Rutland Partners’ acquisition of Gardman Group in 2015.
Commenting on the deal, Adam Agius, debt finance director at OakNorth, said: “Primrose is a well-run online business with an excellent reputation for providing high-quality garden products, service and support. In Rockpool, they’ve found a partner who can help take the business to the next level and ensure it’s prepared for a future that’s increasingly digital and increasingly international. Mark Pearson has been working alongside senior management at Primrose for a year so is well positioned to transition to CEO. We’re delighted to have supported the business with this acquisition and look forward to working with Rockpool on future transactions.”
Darran Green, Partner at Rockpool Investments, said: “Online sales of garden products account for approx. £650m of overall UK garden retail sales (13% share) and are expected to increase to £840m by 2020. Primrose is in a prime position to take advantage of this with a dedicated and growing customer base, solid partner and supplier relationships, and a market-leading product range. Mark has a strong track record of profitable business growth, strategic planning, and operational change management in SME and blue-chip US multinational organisations. He is the perfect candidate to lead this business into the next stage of its growth and we’re excited to help Primrose on its journey.”