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Equistone announces sale of Winterbotham Darby to PAI Partners

09 Nov 2020

Equistone Partners Europe (“Equistone”), a leading European mid-market private equity firm, today announces that it has signed an agreement to sell its majority shareholding in Winterbotham Darby, a leading supplier of chilled foods to UK supermarket chains, to PAI Partners (“PAI”). LDC will also exit its minority shareholding in Winterbotham Darby alongside Equistone, while the company’s management will remain invested in the business. The financial terms of the transaction are undisclosed and completion remains subject to the relevant regulatory approvals.

Winterbotham Darby is one of the UK’s most dynamic chilled food businesses with a leading position in continental foods and a fast-growing plant-based operation. Through strategic own-label relationships with retailers and an exciting portfolio of brands, the team have a long-established record of creating, growing and leading categories. A highly flexible business model has enabled a reputation for innovation and speed to market. The Winterbotham Darby supply chain is underpinned by a sustainable business approach that includes a commitment to high environmental, ethical and technical standards.    

Equistone invested in Winterbotham Darby in December 2012. Since then the company has significantly expanded its supplier network, customer base and product range and has also completed the construction of new UK manufacturing facilities in the fermented foods and plant-based segments. Winterbotham Darby’s innovation and strong early position in the latter market, which is experiencing substantial growth amid increased consumer appetite for meat replacements, has helped drive the company’s strong performance in recent years. Equistone also supported the bolt-on acquisitions of Alatoni and Vadasz during its investment period.

Following the completion of the sale, Winterbotham Darby will form part of a new UK chilled food platform alongside Addo Food Group, which is being simultaneously acquired by PAI. The company will remain operationally independent and led by Steven Higginson and the current management team.

Paul Harper, Partner at Equistone, said: “We’re delighted to have supported the long-term development of Winterbotham Darby and to have worked so closely with Steve and his high-quality team in helping the business diversify its offering to build on existing category leadership positions and emerge as a major player in the high-growth meat-free sector. Following substantial investment and an established presence across a range of categories, Winterbotham Darby is well placed to continue its strong growth trajectory under PAI’s ownership, as part of a leading new chilled food platform.”

Steven Higginson, CEO of Winterbotham Darby, said: “We’ve enjoyed a very successful partnership with Equistone, who have supported us to significantly enhance our presence within the UK grocery market and establish Winterbotham Darby within a number of new, fast-growing chilled food segments. We are excited to be entering the next phase of our development with PAI’s support, where our focus will remain on providing outstanding service and an innovative and diverse range of high-quality products to our valued customers.”

The selling shareholders were advised by Houlihan Lokey (corporate finance) and Travers Smith (legal).

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