Fever-Tree IPO: Charles Rolls and Tim Warrillow are cracking open the bubbly for a market debut

 
Tim Wallace
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Charles Rolls (right) and Tim Warrillow founded Fever-Tree, which is now worth £154m
When boom turns to bust, it can be best to keep your head down, get back to work and wait for a better time to dive into choppy waters.

Plenty of other firms have had second thoughts about their flotations in recent week, as the frenzy of earlier months gave way to a market slump. Businesses trying to go public pulled the plug if they had openly stated their plans, or quietly shelved initial public offerings (IPOs) which had yet to make it into the public domain.

But not Charles Rolls and Tim Warrillow, the pair who founded upmarket tonic water firm Fever-Tree.

“Half way through the process, we heard it was a bad idea to float a business of our size,” said Rolls.

“We did put in a couple of calls to Investec, but they were very confident all the way along. They said we would get a lot of blue chip investors, come what may in the markets.”

But that does not mean it was an easy few weeks to round up the investors needed to pay a total of £93m for the 60 per cent free float in the business.

“We spoke personally to the investors – we must have done the same presentation 68 times over a couple of weeks,” said a somewhat tired-sounding Warrillow.

The pair certainly had a big personal incentive to get a good price for the stock.

Although other investors had previously come in – Lloyds Banking Group’s private equity arm LDC bought a stake in 2012 – the two founders sold a stake amounting to around 16 per cent of the firm’s shares.

That netted them roughly £25m, which is not bad for a nine-year old business.

Does that mean they are planning to step back from the firm? They promise not to.

“We like our firm. We’ve still got a large share in the firm,” said Rolls.

“The vast majority of our wealth is still in the business, and if it grows in the way that we think it will… well, that is very motivating.”

The deal raised £4m in new funds, with the majority of shares sold coming from management and existing investors.

The extra funds should clear the firm’s debts and, the founders say, prepare the way for more growth.

So far Fever-Tree sells into 50 countries, with a UK workforce of just 25 – the manufacturing and other elements are outsourced.

The pair hope that it could eventually have “a good market share” in at least 10 of those.

The Alternative Investment Market (AIM)-listed stock begins open trading tomorrow.

“We are going to the London Stock Exchange, so that is when the celebrating starts for all the staff,” said Warrillow.

“We will open a bottle of tonic over all the brokers, really spray them with it.”

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