Clipper boss in private equity launch

FORMER miner Steve Parkin, now a multi-millionaire and the man behind one of Yorkshire’s most successful recent floats, Clipper Logistics, has announced plans to invest in successful Yorkshire businesses, starting with the acquisition of a 25 per cent stake in interiors business, Southerns, for a seven figure sum.

Steve Parkin
Steve Parkin

Mr Parkin said the investment, through his private equity vehicle Knaresborough Investments, is part of a strategy to increase his business interests in the region at the same time as offering strategic advice to the firms he invests in.

“I identified Southerns as a business that is similar to where I was with Clipper 15 years ago,” said Mr Parkin.

“The opportunities are immense. Sales are not an issue - it’s maximising the opportunity. If I’d had that guidance 15 years ago, it would have been a lot easier.”

Mr Parkin, whose personal wealth is estimated at over £100m, said he sees Knaresborough Investments as an opportunity to give something back to the Yorkshire community.

“We would like to invest £20m over the next few years in six to 10 investments. We are putting hard cash in, not loan notes, not your usual private equity model. I’m a Yorkshireman and I’m proud of it. There are some fantastic businesses here, but a lot of them aren’t getting the recognition they deserve. As someone who was born in Leeds, I want to put something back.”

His first investment, Southerns, is a fixtures, fittings and equipment specialist that works with a number of blue chip clients including Carillion, Bunzl and a number of top end universities including Leeds.

Southerns was split up nine years ago into a Yorkshire and a Lancashire operation following two management buyouts, but Mr Parkin’s investment has allowed the two parts to come back together.

Southerns will now 40 people in Leeds and 34 in Bolton.

Andy Kendall-Jones, founder and principal of Southerns, will stay on alongside his management team. He said the plan is to increase staff numbers by 50 per cent over the next two or three years.

In its first full year as a combined business, Southerns will have a turnover of £20m and pre-tax profit of just over £1m. The plan is to double the turnover over the next two to three years.

Southerns works across the health, education, corporate and retail sectors, sorting out desks, chairs, seating and storage and offering a managed services solution so companies can get on with their day to day running without worrying about the best way to maximise space.

The long term plan is to introduce Southerns to Clipper Logistics’ blue chip client base, but Mr Parkin said the business has plenty of organic and acquisition opportunities in the medium term.

“Carillion alone has got opportunities of £100m to £200m,” said Mr Kendall-Jones.

Mr Parkin added: “Southerns is an exceptionally strong business with an excellent strategic proposition under an experienced and well regarded senior management team.

“This is more than just an investment in money - it’s time and it’s people. It gives Southerns more credibility in the market place. It’s not just about my wealth, it’s the expertise that it brings.”

While opportunities for organic growth are strong with existing long term clients such as Carillion and Balfour Beatty, acquisitions are likely.

“Acquiring businesses is something we are good at, but obviously it’s up to Andy what he buys,” said Mr Parkin.

“I’ve been approached by dozens of businesses over the years, looking for investment. However, with Southerns, I was the one to pro-actively approach Andy. This is one of a number of investment opportunities in Yorkshire.”

Following the investment in Southerns, Steve Parkin said Knaresborough Investments will seek out similarly strong and growing businesses across a variety of sectors, to help them realise their ambitions.

“Having taken Clipper from a start-up in 1992 to one of the UK’s leading retail supply chain specialists, I have a lot to offer businesses which have a strong proposition and are looking to take the company to the next level,” he said.

Mr Parkin has a portfolio of interests, which include logistics, property and bloodstock.

He founded Clipper more than two decades ago, and in 2014 led the business through an IPO. Since then, Clipper has continued to grow its customer base and has nearly doubled its market capitalisation in the nine months post-flotation.