Hancock twins make sweet deal after selling the family business

 
Kasmira Jefford
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THE TWIN brothers behind the pick ‘n’ mix company Hancocks have sold the family business to a Dutch private equity firm for £50m.

Andrew and Adrian Hancock have sold the Leicestershire-based cash and carry business founded by their parents 50 years ago to H2 Equity Partners, the group said yesterday.

The sweets and chocolates specialist supplies thousands of shops and convenience stores with over 5,000 products ranging from jars of boiled sweets,bon bons and gobstoppers to bestsellers from manufacturers such as Haribo.

It also sells its pick ‘n’ mix systems under its brand “Sweet factory” to leisure groups including Merlin Entertainment, the owner of the London Dungeon and Madame Tussauds, Vue, Selfridges, Legoland, and TopShop.

Founded by Ray Hancock and his wife Liz from their local shop in Loughborough, the group now runs 18 cash and carries around the UK and has weathered the recent retail gloom, benefiting from the demise of other sweet retailers such as Woolworths.

The group made a pre-tax profit of £4.3m from sales of £120m in the year to 31 December 2011.

The deal will see H2 take a majority stake with the remainder owned by a management team led by chief executive Mark Watson.

The new owners plan to expand the cash and carry network, broaden its branded and non-branded labels and grow the online activities.

Watson said: “I am delighted to be leading such a strong company that has the prospect of becoming a much bigger player within confectionery wholesaling. We have some exciting plans and opportunities to take the business forward with H2 at the helm.”

Cavendish Corporate Finance acted for the Hancocks brothers.

ADVISERS

CAROLINE BELCHER
CAVENDISH

Cavendish Corporate Finance advised on the management buy-out of Hancocks backed by H2 Equity Partner, with partner Caroline Belcher, leading the deal.

Belcher joined the boutique bank in 2005 and is head of the group’s exit planning practice – when owners or investors in a business might walk away which might be by merging or selling a business. Before joining Cavendish she was a managing director of Venture Consulting UK where she built a business in management consulting and developing new ventures.

She has worked on deals including this month’s sale of Moore Group, the fund management administrator with $17bn under management to IFG Trust and Corporate Group and sale of Royal Berkshire Shooting School Group to a UK private investor.

Commenting on the deal she said: “From the outset, H2 showed an understanding of the wholesale sector and an appreciation of Hancocks and its family roots. I am delighted that we could put together a transaction which resulted in such a supportive home for the Hancocks business and the management team as well as meeting all of the Hancock family’s aspirations.”

Belcher was joined on the sale by Jonathan Buxton, head of Cavendish’ consumer business. He has 25 years of mergers and acquisitions experience under his belt and has spent 15 years specialising in business sales at Cavendish, where he is a partner. Recent deals he has worked on include the $100m sale of Raleigh bicycles to Dutch group Accell, the sale of Robert Dyas, the homeware retail chain to Theo Paphitis, and the sale of Donald Russell, the upmarket butcher to Vesty Foods.