The Automobile Association (AA) acquires AutoWindshields UK

Basingstoke based AA acquired Preston-based AutoWindshields, a leading automotive glass repair and replacement services business in December 2009. BCMS advised the shareholders of AutoWindshields UK on the transaction.

AutoWindshields was established in 2002 by brothers George, James and Neil Needham, and their fourth business partner Barry Donaldson. AutoWindshields operated a pioneering business model that differentiated them from the rest of the industry at the time – they were 100% mobile. By 2006 the company had grown to 50 members of staff, and by 2008 the firm was the fifth-largest windshield company in the UK.

Deal commentary

Neil Needham explained the motivation for sale, and the decision to engage BCMS as lead M&A advisor: “The other four companies were huge in comparison to us. We wanted to get to that next level with the business. We had a turnover of around £5m, while our competitors were turning over £80m. We started to open up relationships with insurance companies and won three or four large accounts. The business went through the roof and the work kept coming. The business was in control of my personal life rather than the other way around.”

Post-sale, the business evolved into the AA’s automotive glazing business, and was rebranded under AA’s AA AutoWindshields. In 2015, the business was acquired again, by automotive glass repair and replacement provider Auto Windscreens. The deal saw AA AutoWindshields’ Preston offices and its 200 staff and technicians integrated with Auto Windscreens and, under a 10-year partnership arrangement, the AA pledged to continue use Auto Windscreens to deliver glass repair and replacement services.

An active member of the BCMS Fellows Group Neil Needham has since moved into the telecoms sector. He is a regular speaker at BCMS events, and features on our roundtable FAQs.