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Company name
Pitlivie Holdings/ MacIntyre Chocolate Systems
Location
Arbroath, Scotland
Founded
1974; origins in the 19th Century
Business activity
Manufacturer of equipment primarily to the chocolate and confectionery industry
Annual sales
c. £16.1m (2012)
Reason for sale
International growth/retirement
Sold
June 2013
Acquirer
Probat

Stuart Anderson – MacIntyre Chocolate Systems

For Stuart Anderson, an apprenticeship at 16 paved the way to a career as a successful international business owner. Stuart has developed a group of companies, including manufacturing facilities in the UK and in Germany, designing and producing equipment for the worldwide chocolate and confectionery industry. Here he tells us how he grew and subsequently came to sell his business.

An entrepreneurial state of mind

Stuart started a five-year apprenticeship with Low & Duff at 16. At 21, frustrated with the way the company was being run, and its subsequent decline, he re-located for a job at Rolls Royce in Northern Ireland, working on aero engines. This proved invaluable in terms of experience: “In the two years I was there the technology they were using put me 10 years ahead of general engineering.”

After two years, Stuart wanted to set up his own manufacturing business, but first had to raise some capital. He started a design company, supplying high pressure pipework and pressure vessel designs to prestigious companies such as Michelin and GlaxoSmithKline.

In 1974 he heard that Low & Duff had gone into liquidation. Stuart says “I was based in Dundee when I heard about the company going under, so I called my lawyers and immediately set up Low & Duff (Developments) Ltd.”

Stuart’s manufacturing journey had begun. But it was not all plain sailing: “It was a passion for the business that led me to resurrect it. They had run down the company so much that when I called past clients, they wouldn’t even speak to me. It took me about five years to build the business back up.”

At the same time, Stuart was strategically growing the business overseas: “I could see big potential overseas. It became easier for us to sell to Japan than London. 90% of our business was export.”

Growing the business

In 1995 Stuart bought land in Arbroath and built new facilities, bringing the fabrication and assembly shops together with the main manufacturing facility for the first time. This, along with the acquisition of a manufacturer in Germany (Petzholdt-Heidenauer Maschinen), enabled the company to achieve the international growth it needed.

By the time Stuart came to BCMS, he was the owner of Pitlivie Holdings, Low & Duff (Developments), Petzholdt-Heidenauer and MacIntyre Chocolate Systems Ltd.

Deciding to sell

Stuart already had a long-term plan in place: “The plan was, come 2013 we had to decide what we would do long term. My daughter, who is involved in the business, told me she did not want to run it, as she felt out of her depth when it came to the engineering side. That’s when I decided I needed to sell the business.”

When asked what brought him to BCMS, Stuart replies, “BCMS was running a seminar in Dundee and I thought ‘I’m going to go’ as I wasn’t sure about how I would go about selling a business. I was very impressed, it was totally different to the way I approached selling. I’m a good salesman, I reckon I could sell most things to anybody, but selling a company and selling it completely confidentially is a different matter.

“After the seminar I decided to visit BCMS’ Haslingden office and met the team there. I signed up straight away and it was all done in a year. And it was turmoil in that time! But BCMS was always there to sort things out for us and to smooth over any issues. BCMS has a great team.”

“I was very impressed with the way the sale was handled by BCMS and we certainly could not have done it ourselves.”

The BCMS process

Three companies showed interest in the business. One of them proved a perfect fit. As Stuart says: “I had worked with Probat before and I knew they were a family company like ourselves. They had driven their product to be number one in the world, so I felt they could take us to the next level.”

Stuart chose the option that would keep the business in Arbroath, which was an important consideration for him: “It is a Scottish company with heritage dating back to 1840. During the war it built castings for submarines. In peacetime it was food processing machinery.”

Stuart was very impressed with the BCMS process: “BCMS made the initial contact with all potential purchasers and they kept the whole thing confidential. Being an international business, we expected word to get around like wildfire but it didn’t. I was very impressed with the way the sale was handled by BCMS and we certainly could not have done it ourselves. I was amazed that without going to our competitors and the usual firms we would have approached, we achieved a great sale. There was a lot more interest than I expected: that pleased me a lot.”

“It didn’t matter what issues arose during the sale there was always someone in the BCMS team that could address it.”

Stuart found the financial planning part of the process especially helpful: “When you run a business on your own, you have your own way of working out how the business is doing, within a few thousand pounds. When we started with BCMS on the accounting side we had to be more factual, which was interesting because the format the BCMS business analysts put together for projections was better than what we had. In fact, since the sale, some of the accounting practices we put together with BCMS are still being used. It didn’t matter what issues arose during the sale there was always someone in the BCMS team that could address it.”

After the sale

“Talking to my wife post-sale we both said how lucky we were that we picked BCMS. How it ran so smoothly and to do it in the timescale. Nine months from the first major meeting to the sale! I would never have believed it.”

Now that the company has sold, Stuart and his wife plan to travel in Canada. He is also looking at farming and raw ingredient production.

When asked for his final thought, Stuart concludes: “It’s a hell of a thing to sell a business! It was tough but once the decision was made it was like a weight off my back.”

Recommended

Company name
Pitlivie Holdings/ MacIntyre Chocolate Systems
Location
Arbroath, Scotland
Founded
1974; origins in the 19th Century
Business activity
Manufacturer of equipment primarily to the chocolate and confectionery industry
Annual sales
c. £16.1m (2012)
Reason for sale
International growth/retirement
Sold
June 2013
Acquirer
Probat
Macintyre acquired by Probat