Seeds company bought up in £100m deal

Dave Carey and John Fothergill of Mr Fothergill's Seeds

From left, the sons of the founders of Mr Fothergill's Seeds Dave Carey, who continues as managing director, and John Fothergill, who is exiting the business - Credit: Fothergill's

A Suffolk seed firm has been snapped up in a £100m-plus deal.

A management buyout backed by private equity will see Mr Fothergill’s Seeds at Kentford, near Newmarket, continue to grow, say its new owners.

The business was founded in 1978 by Brian Carey and Jeff Fothergill and continued under their sons, Dave Carey and John Fothergill, along with Aaron Whitehouse.

Today the £50m turnover business employs 250 workers and has international offices in Australia and New Zealand.

The management buyout – which will see the exit of Mr Fothergill’s founding shareholders – including former joint managing director John Fothergill – has been backed by Harwood Private Capital and OakNorth Bank.

The  business will continue to be led by managing director Dave Carey and the management team. They will be supported by new non-executive chair Matt Atkinson – as the business pursues further growth.

The business supplies horticultural products – mainly hobby seeds and supplementary goods –  directly to consumers and via more than 3,000 retailers and partners including large national retailers and garden centres worldwide.

Most Read

Dave Carey said: “The business my father Brian founded with Jeff Fothergill 40 years ago that myself, Aaron Whitehouse and John Fothergill have led for the last decade, has remained true to its family values while becoming one of the world’s leading seed brands.

Mr Fothergill's Sees headquarters at Kentford, near Newmarket

Mr Fothergill's Sees headquarters at Gazeley Road, Kentford, Newmarket - Credit: Google Maps

“Those values, and our commitment to supporting our customers with the best possible product and service, will continue to be at the core of our offer as we enter into an exciting new era with Harwood Private Capital. I’m looking forward to working with the team as we target further growth across our international client base and the direct-to-consumer market.”

Mr Fothergill's Seeds

Seed packing at Fothergill's back in 2003 - Credit: Andy Abbott

Chelsea Flower Show 2016 James Marston explores the world famous horticultural show

Mr Fothergills seeds at Kentford on show at the Chelsea Flower Show - Credit: Lucy Taylor

Dave Howes, partner at FRP Corporate Finance in Norwich, said: “We’ve had the privilege of supporting the team at Mr Fothergill’s for the past two years and, in that time, have come to see first-hand the business’ growth potential. 

“Homeware and gardening have seen a huge increase in sales since the start of the pandemic, and their continued strength makes businesses in the sector an ideal platform for investors looking to back established but ambitious brands. We wish all involved the best for the future as the firm continues to fly the flag for high-quality British brands on the domestic and international stage.” 

Mr Fothergill's Seeds is a seed firm based in Newmarket

Mr Fothergill's Seeds is a seed firm based in Newmarket - Credit: Fothergill's

FRP Corporate Finance partner Dave Howes and director Ryan Symonds, supported by tax director Matt Field, acted as lead advisers on the competitive transaction with legal advice provided by HCR Hewitsons. They worked closely with Mr Fothergill’s board and shareholders over recent years to support the firm’s strategic development.