Blackbird Retail Holdings, owner of one of the UK’s largest online furniture retailers, The Cotswold Company, has been picked up by private equity firm True Capital. The transaction was supported by advisers from Jones Day, PwC, Livingstone Partners, Pinsent Masons, JDC Corporate Finance and Royal Bank of Scotland.
Founded in 1996, The Cotswold Company was acquired by Blackbird Retail Holdings in a purchase led by Kevin Johnson and James Birtwhistle in 2009. The company sells high quality oak, pine, painted furniture and accessories, and handles over 100,000 orders every year from its 170,000 square foot warehouse in Wednesbury.
In recent years The Cotswold Company has, on the back of a well-positioned online presence and booming market – the online retail furniture market has seen digit growth and is expected to keep growing at a compound annual growth (CAGR) of around 13% to 2020 – booked stellar growth, taking its revenue to over £35 million today.
In a bid to bolster the probability of the firm successfully coming through its next stage of growth, Blackbird Retail Holdings has decided to bring the expertise of True Capital on board, a private equity (PE) firm that invests between £10 million and £40 million in promising retail and consumer sector companies. The PE-firm has taken a majority stake in the retailer – financial details have not been disclosed. Matt Truman, CEO and co-founder of True Capital, explains: “We aim to invest in retailers of the future and utilise our expertise and ecosystem to help accelerate growth. In The Cotswold Company we identified a strong business exposed to the right structural growth trends, with excellent financial metrics, driven and executed by exceptional founders and a world class management team.”
Commenting on the transaction, Kevin Johnson, CEO of The Cotswold Company, says he is “incredibly proud” of what the firm has achieved to date, adding, “In True Capital we have found a partner to take our business to the next level, whilst allowing us to adopt new technologies that will benefit our customers’ experiences. We are delighted to have them on board and look forward to growing the business with them over the coming years.”
The Cotswold Company’s existing management team – including Kevin Johnson and James Birtwhistle – will remain in place. Gordon Segal, founder of the US-based $1 billion turnover furniture retailer Crate&Barrel, whose family office, Prairie Management Group, is a significant investor in the True Capital fund, will play an active role in the company, particularly around product, real estate and supply chain following the transaction.
“Gordon Segal’s involvement in this acquisition is a great example of our sector ecosystem and I am sure he will prove to be a fantastic asset for the company going forward”, says Truman. Segal states: “Building great businesses requires exceptional people and an outstanding culture. Having spent a long period of time with both True Capital and The Cotswold Company management team in recent weeks, I am absolutely confident Kevin and the wider team, with True Capital’s support, have the potential to build a very significant company.”
The deal between Blackbird Retail Holdings and True Capital was advised on by six external advisory firms. True Capital was advised by M&A lawyers of Jones Day and M&A consultants from PwC. The shareholders of Blackbird Retail Holdings were advised by Livingstone Partners, a London-based mid-market M&A firm, law firm Pinsent Masons and JDC Corporate Finance, a corporate finance boutique with offices in Norwich and London. The Royal Bank of Scotland’s Corporate Transactions team provided the senior debt package for the transaction, plus committed working capital lines.