Building firm Lemmeleg sold to Rok

Co-founder remains as MD

David Parkin

Business Editor

YORKSHIRE Forward chairman Terry Hodgkinson has sold his Lemmeleg construction firm to national building group Rok.

The deal for the 30m turnover Wakefield-based company sees co-founder Trevor Cooper remain as managing director of the business while Mr Hodgkinson will concentrate his efforts on his role heading the regional development agency and his conservation and restoration company Magna Holdings.

Rok Property Solutions, the London Stock Exchange quoted developer, builder and maintenance services provider has acquired Lemmeleg, which was founded in 1978 by Mr Hodgkinson and Mr Cooper, for 1.7m.

The pair will remain as directors of White Rose Investments, the company they founded to acquire the investment property once held by Lemmeleg.

Mr Hodgkinson, who was in Sheffield yesterday celebrating London's success in winning the 2012 Olympic Games, said he had had an "emotional" 24 hours, after completing the sale of Lemmeleg late the previous night.

"Trevor and I have had some emotional moments and it's been very much Trevor's baby in the last year or so," he said, having put the firm into a "blind trust" style arrangement since he become the 47,000-a-year non-executive chairman of Yorkshire Forward in December 2003.

"We were in the process of sorting out its ownership and then we had this approach out of the blue from Rok, who are a great organisation. You want to make sure of your employees' future.

"Building these days is very much about specialisation and domination."

Lemmeleg, which employs 107 people, reported pre-tax profits of 200,000 for the 15 months to July 31 last year and had gross assets of 8.7m. It is expected to have net assets on completion of 1.3m.

London-based Rok announced record results for the year to the end of December 2004 with turnover growing 30 per cent to 495m and pre-tax profit, before exceptional charges and goodwill amortisation, by 21 per cent to 13.9m.

Rok was founded in 1939 when a number of smaller businesses amalgamated as Exeter Building Company in order to take on larger projects being issued by the Government at the start of the Second World War.

EBC progressively expanded through acquisition and merger over the next 40years, becoming a major player in the South West of England, and was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1985.

In 2000, Garvis Snook joined as chief executive and decided to take the company beyond its traditional geographic boundaries and to re-brand it as Rok. His aim was for it to become "the nation's local builder".

The first part of the expansion strategy came in 2002, with the acquisition of the Llewellyn group, a family- owned company in the South East.

Rok moved to redress its southern bias with the acquisition of parts of Ballast in the autumn of 2003, giving it centres in Manchester, Ellesmere Port, Newcastle and Glasgow.

The group is now planning further expansion and has a plan to quadruple the number of local offices it has across the UK from the 25 it had last year to more than 100 in the next five years by a combination of natural growth and acquisition.

Yesterday it also announced the purchase of Grimsby-based construction firm Topcon for 3.2m.

Rok regional director Keith Watson said of the Lemmeleg purchase: "We are looking at using the experience gained in Rok over the last few fast-moving years to give it new rigour and focus and help it to combine dedicated local service with greater profitability."

Mr Hodgkinson said he was keen to keep ownership of 4m turnover Magna.

"When I took the job at Yorkshire Forward I said that you need people with current business currency, so I want to stay on in business."

david.parkin@ypn.co.uk