Woodlands Home & Garden Group moves to employee ownership

Third-generation Leeds-based family business, Woodlands Home & Garden Group, has agreed a deal to become an employee-owned business, via the creation of an employee owned trust (EOT). Founded in 1913, Woodlands is a leading manufacturer of timber garden buildings and processor of machined timber, and employs over 160 staff working across three sites in Leeds and Bradford.

The company operates through four key brands: Woodlands Garden Spaces, Woodlands Timber, Woodlands DIY Superstore and its market leading, direct to retail, garden building brand With a strong desire to continue its own growth journey and having seen large scale consolidation across the industry, the business has opted to make the move into employee ownership with the formation of a new employee ownership trust (EOT)

The deal is structured to maintain the long-term stability of the business with current Chief Executive Ross Moran and Managing Director Ged Lees both continuing in their roles, and the existing senior leadership team all remaining in place to achieve the ambitious growth plans of the business.

Ross Moran, Woodlands CEO, said “There has been a huge amount of interest in this sector over the last two years, and as one of the established market leaders, Woodlands has received a number of offers of investment or in some cases offers to take a controlling interest in the business. Whilst this is extremely flattering, it comes at a time when the company is still part way through our brand journey, and we are acutely aware of how important it is for such an historic business to be very selective with regard to strategic partnerships. Instead, we have used this period to assess all of the growth options available to the business and we felt that the EOT model was perfect for us.

“As the proud custodian of this great family business, it seems completely fitting to set up this structure whereby the future of the business rests with the loyal staff who have been the key to our success.  This is a long-term deal designed to provide stability and a defined succession framework, but effectively on a day-to-day basis it will be business as usual with the same management team continuing the drive towards our existing ambitious vision.”

Despite a challenging year for the garden building sector in 2022, with the market normalising following a COVID boom, the strength of the Tiger brand, boosted by prime-time television advertising, propelled website sales to show growth of more than 15% year on year.

Ged Lees, Woodlands Managing Director, added “Having achieved one of our primary goals last year in taking the Tiger brand on to national television and firmly establishing ourselves as the most recognised brand name in our industry, this deal is a key strategic step for us, in what we expect to be another exciting year for the business. Whilst the general economic climate could be seen as presenting some challenges right now, we see this as a time of opportunity. We are looking at the EOT as an important phase in our next stage of growth, and we are actively looking at acquisition opportunities and are in live discussions about strategic partnerships across our supply chain and beyond.  The deal also provides a fantastic and well-deserved chance for the existing staff and leadership team to continue their progression to become a part of the ownership structure of the business.’

Woodlands was advised by legal professionals Adrian Ballam and Adam Kurowski (corporate), Andrew Facer (trusts) and Paul Christian (tax) of Ward Hadaway, who have undertaken a number of such transactions, with tax, accounting and valuation advice provided by KPMG, with a team led by Nathan Potton, Liz Hunter, Brendon Stansfield and Jonathan Riley.

Nathan Potton, Director – Tax, at KPMG, said: “It’s exciting to see a business with 110 years of heritage and family values move to an employee ownership model. More firms are transitioning to EOTs as they seek to preserve their independent cultural identities, while rewarding and developing employees. We look forward to continuing our work with the Woodlands team to support them through the next exciting steps of their growth plan.”

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