Leavitt Walmsley Associates Ltd (LWA) advised Lakeland Laboratories (Lakeland) on its management buyout (MBO) and appointment of a new board of directors. Hill Dickinson also advised Lakeland.
Lakeland is a UK firm that researches, develops and manufactures versatile chemicals across the country and internationally, with a product portfolio comprising bespoke amphoterics, phosphate esters, wax emulsions and surfactant blends for the automotive, agrochemical, oilfield and industrial cleaning industries, among others. Having been founded in Astley in 1963, the firm’s MBO – which sees the exit and retirement of three of its major shareholders – also marks its 60th year in business.
Lakeland’s new board is led by existing shareholder and managing director Paul McCormack. Joining him are finance director Eric Seddon, sales director Cath Buckley, technical director Sarah Oliver and engineering director Jamie Clark. Former shareholder John Thomson has stayed on as production director.
McCormack said: “The new board thanks Lakeland’s previous directors for their dedication over the past years, and for completing this MBO which enables us to secure our position in the marketplace and provide job security and new opportunities for our talented team,” McCormack said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to growing Lakeland, to working closely with our customers, distributors and suppliers, and continuing our contribution to Greater Manchester’s manufacturing and export success.”
Lawyer Monthly had the pleasure to speak with Les Leavitt at LWA to give us some further insight into this transaction:
To begin with, can you share some background information about LWA and the team that worked on this MBO?
LWA is an accountancy and business advisory firm working with clients across the North West from our offices in Sale, South Manchester and Birchwood Park, Warrington. We were appointed by the board at Lakeland Laboratories 15 years ago, and both myself and my co-director Steve Collings have worked closely with the shareholders and leadership team during this time on numerous projects, helping the firm to grow and evolve to reach this new phase of the business’s future with this successful MBO.
Steve Collings is an internationally recognised expert in auditing and reporting standards. He has authored over 31 books and has won a number of awards throughout his career as well as being asked to judge awards in the accounting sector.
I have been supported by our tax manager, Nicola Antley-Slater, who was able to provide tax advice in respect of the MBO.
What roles did the team perform, and what unique skills and professional experience did they draw upon to see the operation to completion?
My role was to assist with a structure that allowed the objectives of both the sellers and the incoming management team to be met. Having worked with the shareholders for many years and having a clear understanding of their objectives meant we were able to structure the business for sale to the incoming management in a way that would work for all parties. This required knowledge of both the tax and the accounting implications.
Steve’s technical knowledge and skills have been utilised regularly by the Lakeland Laboratories board throughout the duration of our working partnership, which has included being appointed as auditors of their pension fund involving collaboration with various stakeholders including investment managers and actuaries. Steve’s impeccable reputation and intricate knowledge has been vital in ensuring the accuracy of the company’s financial statements.
What are the key aspects to keep in mind when advising on an MBO and the appointment of a new board of directors?
Technical expertise and the timely provision of accurate detailed management information is vital when advising on an MBO. Going further than this is the ability to be personable in order to make successful decisions based on knowledge of the client’s business processes and culture, gained over time.
Steve’s impeccable reputation and intricate knowledge has been vital in ensuring the accuracy of the company’s financial statements.
Did you encounter any challenges during the course of your work? How did you deal with these?
As with any MBO, there are always potential deal-breakers relating to warranties and funding and securitisation of the same. With the goodwill of all parties, a number of contentious matters were resolved by open and honest communication, which is vital in any negotiations. It is important to keep the focus on the main objective and not to become stuck on an individual aspect of the deal.
What effect do you expect the appointment of the new board will have on the trajectory of Lakeland and the wider UK chemicals industry?
The MBO has given Lakeland a secure future for manufacturing chemicals in the UK market. It has given the current staff job security, something that the last management team wanted to achieve. The new board are focused on continuing the excellent reputation of Lakeland in the chemical industry and the move has given confidence that their product range will be available under the same terms and quality that has been achieved over the last 60 years. In turn, this gives Lakeland’s customers confidence to develop their own products using the Lakeland range, knowing products will be available for the foreseeable future.
The UK chemical industry has expressed relief that the company has remained privately owned and is still manufacturing in the UK.
With further investment, Lakeland Laboratories Ltd will strive to develop more products and to strengthen relationships with both customers and suppliers.
We are looking forward to continuing to work closely with Paul, Eric, Cath, Sarah and Jamie, whom we have already been working alongside as Lakeland’s external financial advisors.
How did your team’s work on this operation fit the profile of your firm?
Our senior management team at LWA are well versed in developing and maintaining long-term relationships with clients. Our firm’s ethos is to go way beyond providing standard compliance, and is based on the principles of ‘Know, Like and Trust’. This has been evident in the level of our service provided to the Lakeland Laboratories team for the past 15 years and has been a key factor in being trusted to provide advice for this successful MBO.