EDDIE Stobart is to have new owners at the wheel after Britain’s best-known trucking business was sold to investors in a deal worth £280m.
The business, which employs around 5,000 people and operates 2,300 vehicles, will be led by the founder’s youngest son, William Stobart.
Stobart Group, which is retaining a 49 per cent stake in the company as well as the rights to the Eddie Stobart name, said the sale will enable it to almost wipe out debt and focus on its operations in the energy, air and rail markets.
Members of the investment group behind the takeover have previous experience of the sector through their former ownership of UK logistics firm TDG. It was sold to Norbert Dentressangle in 2010.
Stobart will receive £195.6m for the Eddie Stobart operation, as well as shares worth £44.1m in the new venture.
The Eddie Stobart business, which was the subject of a television series on Channel 5, counts Tesco among its major customers.
Stobart will use some of the proceeds to invest in waste wood and anaerobic digestion electricity generating plants through a new green energy business.
Chairman Iain Ferguson said: “This transaction represents an important step in the realisation of value for shareholders.
“We have found a strong partner to take Eddie Stobart Logistics to the next stage of its development, increasing the scope of the powerful Eddie Stobart brand and allowing the group to focus on its infrastructure and support services divisions.
“These proposals allow us to repay debt, make a return of capital to shareholders, stimulate the growth of our biomass business and bring the group’s businesses together in a coherent, medium-term value creation plan.”
William Stobart said: “We already have an extremely loyal customer base who we look forward to continuing to work with. It is an exciting time for us to grow this business and I am looking forward to this next stage and the opportunities that it will bring for our employees and customers.”
The business can trace its roots back to the 1960s, when its founder went into business as an agricultural contractor in the Lake District.
Eddie Stobart’s son, Edward, shifted the company’s focus towards road transport and warehousing.
The business expanded significantly in the 1980s and 1990s, opening depots across the UK.
In 2009, the Stobart Group entered the FTSE 250.
In the same year, Carlisle Lake District Airport was acquired, with the aim of providing a new Northern base for the business, and extending the group’s interests into airport service.
It also launched its first international rail freight service operating between Valencia and the UK.