THIRTEEN years ago, Oliver North was saving lives as a member of a Green Goddess fire crew, writes Deputy Business Editor Greg Wright.
At the time, Mr North was serving with the Royal Engineers in Lancaster. Along with his colleagues, he was called on to fight blazes during fire service strikes.
In recent years, he has played a major role in developing North Fire, a Yorkshire-based fire fighting vehicle and equipment supplier.
Today the company is poised to enjoy rapid growth after completing a deal involving an Austrian-based manufacturer of fire service vehicles.
Rosenbauer International has completed the acquisition of a 75 per cent shareholding in North Fire. North Fire, which is based in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire and employs nine staff, will re-brand as Rosenbauer UK in the next few days.
Before the deal was completed, Mr North owned two-thirds of North Fire, and the rest of the business was owned by Ken Davy, the chairman of rugby league team the Huddersfield Giants. Mr North, who is North Fire’s managing director, retains a 25 per cent shareholding in the new company. According to Mr North, the deal was worth around £1.5m.
North Fire, which is expected to see its turnover rise from £3.6m to around £6m this year, was founded in 2008. The business was built around Mr North’s relationship with Rosenbauer. Mr North had worked as a Rosenbauer salesman after leaving the army.
He said yesterday: “We’re absolutely delighted to have merged with the biggest and best fire fighting vehicle and equipment manufacturer in the world...we’re very excited at what the future holds, not only for ourselves but for our customers.”
The number of staff at the Huddersfield site is expected to triple in the next year.
Exports are also expected to increase significantly, and a larger manufacturing division will be required to accommodate the extra fleet and equipment.