Endless Backs Crown Paints Buyout

Endless, the UK based investment fund, is pleased to announce that it has entered into a binding agreement to acquire Crown Paints, one of the leading paint brands in the UK and Ireland, from Netherlands company, Akzo Nobel N.V.

The terms of the transaction are undisclosed and is subject to formal approval from the European Competition Commission. This is expected within the next two months.

With a proud history spanning almost 200 years, the UK based business has a rich pedigree in decorative coatings, with leading brands across the Trade and Retail sectors including Crown, Sadolin, Sandtex, Macpherson and Berger. The MBO returns the Business back to British ownership and will enable the independence of its brands to be retained. At Endless the investment was led by Managing Director Warwick Ley, and Associate Director Neil Baishnab.

With its headquarters in Darwen (Lancashire), Crown Paints has annual revenue in excess of £180 million across UK and Ireland (with a further small export business). Crown Paints employs 1,500 people and operates two factories in Darwen and Hull, with strategic warehouse depots located in Warrington, Dublin and Belfast. The business also has an extensive network of 126 Crown Decorator Centres ("CDC") across the UK and Ireland.

Despite difficult market conditions, the Business has achieved impressive growth in market share over the last two years. It was this, together with management's development plans for the Business, which attracted Endless to the investment. Endless will invest significantly to support the business's development, factory upgrade and refurbishment of the CDC network.

The MBO team, made up of Howard Luft (CEO), Eric Mullholland (Finance Director) and Joe Devitt (Retail Director) will be joined on the Board by Warwick Ley of Endless and the new non-executive Chairman, Graham Hallworth. Mr Hallworth has extensive experience in a number of successful private equity backed transactions together with specific experience in decorative coatings and related sectors.

Crown Chairman, Graham Hallworth, said of the deal: "This is a very exciting time for everyone in the business as we return to independence. Crown is an extremely strong brand that is experiencing sales growth and it is essential that we remain competitive in current trading conditions. The robust funding structure we have put in place, supported by the significant level of investment from Endless, puts us in a strong position to increase sales further and take advantage of market opportunities. The team at Endless has a great track record of assisting management teams in strategic business growth therefore we are pleased to be able to involve them in the future of Crown."

Endless Managing Director, Warwick Ley, added: "Although market conditions are tough, we believe Crown is a brand well positioned for resurgence as evidenced by its recent growth in market share and feedback from key customers. This will be supported by a significant level of investment behind the business." Mr Ley added "There were many challenges associated with the transaction, however with the combined approach of management and our advisor group, we were able to deliver a certain transaction in a short timescale to the vendor."

Garry Wilson, Managing Partner of Endless, commented: "This is a landmark deal for Endless and demonstrates our ability to deliver certainty to vendors in complex and large situations. Alongside the Crown acquisition, we have considerable experience in acquiring non core assets from large corporates and we continue to see this as a key area of investment for us in the future."

Supporting Warwick Ley and Neil Baishnab from Endless on the transaction were Indra Valeinis and Simon Mason. Deloitte (Andy Westbrook, Paul Trickett, Matt Widdall and Steve Pringle) acted as lead advisor for Endless and also provided Financial and Commercial Due Diligence. DLA Piper (Paul Rimmer and Jonathan Watkins) acted as lead legal advisors for Endless and newco. Walker Morris (Austin Judson) provided property legal advice and Hill Dickinson (Darryl Cooke) acted for management.

Commenting on the deal, Andy Westbrook, corporate finance partner at Deloitte, said: "This was one of the most complex transactions seen in the market for some time. We have worked with the team at Endless on a number of investments in the past and in identifying Crown Paints as a target, Endless has bought into a business that has strong development potential".