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One of the largest independent commercial refrigeration, catering equipment and air conditioning specialists in England has transitioned to employee ownership.
KF Bartlett Ltd (now trading as Bartlett) was established in Exeter in 1958 by founder Ken Bartlett to cater for the growing demand for commercial refrigeration equipment. The company was incorporated a year later and opened its first showroom in 1960.
Today the family business employs 74 people, including more than 40 refrigeration and commercial catering gas and electrical engineers. From its bases in Exeter, Redruth and South Brent, Bartlett supplies, installs and services a wide range of commercial kitchen and air conditioning equipment and systems for businesses and public sector customers across the South West and beyond.
The company has moved towards an inclusive structure which will give employees a real sense of ownership and provide more opportunities to reward everyone for the part they play in our future success.
Second-generation owner-managers David, Paul and Nicki Bartlett and their fellow shareholders turned to PKF Francis Clark for advice on succession planning as they looked forward to retirement. Following a comprehensive options review, the business has now been sold to an employee ownership trust (EOT), meaning all staff will enjoy a share of future profits.
Director David Bartlett said: “With a number of our senior directors looking to retire, considerable thought was given to succession and future planning, where it was felt important that the legacy and company values should continue. We were fortunate to have already in place a long serving, highly experienced management team who are steeped in the culture of the company.
“After exploring a number of options it became apparent that employee ownership had many benefits. The company has moved towards an inclusive structure which will give employees a real sense of ownership and provide more opportunities to reward everyone for the part they play in our future success.”
One of the main attractions of employee ownership is the opportunity to preserve the legacy of a family business while rewarding loyal staff.
John Ponsford, managing director, added: “Transferring to an EOT is excellent news for the company and makes perfect sense from both the employees’ and customers’ points of view. For everybody it is business as usual, we have no third party company taking us over and changing the philosophy or ways in which we work; employees also have a far greater say in the future of the business. Therefore moving forwards, it enables us to uphold the values of the company that have enabled us to be so successful for the last 65 years.
“Becoming an EOT also allows us an advantage to our competitors when attracting new talent, particularly with the enhanced profit share now available, and we are looking forward to exciting times ahead.”
Martin said: “One of the main attractions of employee ownership is the opportunity to preserve the legacy of a family business while rewarding loyal staff. Bartlett has grown over the years through a mixture of organic growth and acquisitions, and the business is well placed to build on this success as it embarks on this exciting new chapter. We were delighted to advise on Bartlett’s transition to employee ownership and wish the new employee owners every success.
“Since current legislation came into force in 2014, EOTs have gradually become an increasingly popular option for owner-managed businesses when it comes to succession planning. While the rules are complex, there are tax reliefs for shareholders to encourage employee-ownership, and employees can receive tax-free bonuses of up to £3,600 a year.”
Legal advice to the shareholders was provided by Christian Wilson, of Spencer West, and financial advice by Mark Neath, of Old Mill.
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