Thornton owners set for windfall after sale

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THE shareholders at a family-owned Yorkshire-based drug maker are set to enjoy a multi-million pound windfall after the company was sold to a quoted German firm.

Generic drugmaker Stada yesterday revealed it had signed a deal to buy Thornton & Ross for 259m euros (£221m) in cash, including assumed debt.

Thornton & Ross, which has 440 staff and a turnover of around £70m, is behind some of Britain’s best known brands, such as Covonia, Hedrin and Setlers, as well as the disinfectant Zoflora.

Founded in 1922, Thornton & Ross is the largest independent over-the-counter pharmaceutical manufacturer in the UK, and exports to more than 80 countries worldwide.

The deal is expected to lead to more investment, and more jobs, in the company’s HQ in Linthwaite, near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

Last week, Stada, which is based in Bad Vilbel, Germany, revealed that it was in advanced talks to acquire Thornton & Ross.

Jonathan Thornton, the chairman of Thornton & Ross, said Stada had bought the company on the back of its success in the thriving UK over-the-counter medicines market.

He added: “They (Stada) have given every sign that they intend to invest in the company and the production here in Linthwaite. The idea is to grow the business.”

Mr Thornton said the company’s management would remain, and the deal had secured the future of the business.

Mr Thornton, who is the grandson of one of the founders, Nathan Thornton, has been with the company for almost 30 years.

He has served as executive chairman since 2001.

Mr Thornton’s father Ralph had previously been managing director for more than 20 years.

Yesterday, Mr Thornton spoke of his sadness about leaving the business after years of family ownership and involvement.

However, he said he was pleased to be leaving it in the “capable hands” of the existing management and the new owners.

He added: “Many of the values that are so important to me are also evident within the Stada group, which ultimately was a major factor in making this decision to complete the transaction with Stada.

“Stada Group see the potential in our portfolio of products and has the resource and international reach to develop our business considerably. This acquisition will act as a platform for the growth of their business in the UK and they have reiterated their commitment to the business and its employees in this region.”

Hartmut Retzlaff, chairman of the Stada executive board, added: “Thornton & Ross and Stada have so much in common, both being pharmaceutical manufacturers with a considerable tradition.

“We understand how emotional such a change is. It’s the outstanding work of its employees and its management that made Thornton & Ross a perfect match for us. So there is no need for change, everybody will stay on board. Thornton & Ross will remain Thornton & Ross, and will become a Stada centre of excellence for over-the-counter products.

“Huddersfield will not only be a dot on our map, but a most important part of the Stada family.”

Law firm Eversheds advised the shareholders in Thornton & Ross in connection with the disposal of the share capital of the company, and its subsidiaries.

The Eversheds team was led by corporate and merger and acquisition partners Robin Johnson and Charles Reynard, together with Simon Procter, Elizabeth Shepherd, Brett Rowland and Simon Evans.

Mr Reynard said: “This is a significant deal, which will allow the business to prosper and expand. We wish all involved the very best, as the business takes new strides in broader international markets.”

David Frith, a partner at Deloitte, who also advised the sellers, said: “Thornton & Ross is a huge Yorkshire success story and over the years has demonstrated a sustained record of growth, innovation and expansion.”

Stada is a quoted German generic drug manufacturer, which has production facilities in countries including Germany, Russia, Serbia and China.

Stada’s group sales in 2012 were around 1.8bn euros, and the company employs 7,761 staff worldwide. Stada has 42,000 shareholders, and around 12 per cent of them are doctors and pharmacists.

greg.wright@ypn.co.uk