Buyout boys scoop Garner

PRIVATE equity pioneer Jon Moulton dipped into his own pocket to take a controlling stake in recruitment firm Garner yesterday, alongside fellow buyout veteran Pierce Casey.

Moulton and Casey put in £1m each to buy almost two thirds of the Aim-listed company, which will be rebranded Norman Broadbent in line with its successful headhunting offshoot. The pair hope to revitalise its fortunes under a new capital structure and a re-jigged board lineup.

Moulton and Casey more than doubled their money immediately as the announcement stirred up market excitement around the stock. Shares in Norman Broadbent – still trading as Garner – shot up 123 per cent to 3.9p by the close of trading, making each man’s stake worth £2.2m.

Moulton told City A.M. Norman Broadbent was an “excellent brand fallen on hard times as a result of some energetic acquisition activity”.

A reverse merger with Upton and Southern, a department store chain, left the business struggling in 1998. Moulton and Casey believe the following purchase of Norman Broadbent was far too expensive at £5.5m.

Moulton said: “It’s a small company in a large market. The scope for it to grow is significant. It’s been around in my consciousness for a large part of my career – a strong brand name is important in this business.”

Casey becomes chairman while Andrew Garner, previously chairman and chief executive, will focus on his executive duties. Joining as directors are Brian Stephens, who runs Casey’s family money, Ben Felton, an accountant and Jan Cameron, currently head of human resources.