Puro Ventures, which trades as Speedy Freight, has undergone a management buyout which sees its founders leave the business and Eddie Stobart holding company GreenWhiteStar Acquisitions (GWSA) sell its remaining 20% shareholding in the company.

Announcing the move today, Puro Ventures said Speedy Freight MD Mike Smith (pictured left) will be increasing his stake to become the majority shareholder, alongside operations director John Munnelly (right), with equity house BGF taking a significant minority shareholding. Founders Mike Le-Gallez and Ian Southworth will be stepping down.

The move comes after Puro Ventures revealed a leap in pre-tax profits last year. In its latest annual results the company unveiled a 38% rise in turnover to £42m (2019: £30.5m) and a 61% jump in pre-tax profit to £2.9m (2019: £1.8m).

The announcement comes in the wake of the sale of GWSA last week to Culina Group. Eddie Stobart bought a 50% stake in Puro Ventures in 2017 but parent company GWSA reduced the holding to 20% last year as it strove to cut substantial losses incurred by Eddie Stobart and reduce its debts, which were £144.5m according to its latest results to 30 November 2020.

Speedy Freight provides nationwide B2B express freight services, using a regional franchisee model, with over 60 independent couriers working under the parent company’s patronage with access to its marketing and technology. It does not hold an O-licence itself, according to official records.

Announcing the buyout and BGF investment, Puro Ventures said it had seen record growth in 2020 aided by the sharp rise in demand for logistics support through the Covid-19 pandemic. “As such, the brand feels the time is right for a bold expansion, supported by new long-term investor BGF,” it added.

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BGF has invested £2.5bn in nearly 400 companies since launching in 2011 and has a portfolio across all sectors and regions of the UK. In 2020, BGF backed 61 companies, investing a total of £384m over the course of the year.

Matt Widdall, an investor at BGF’s North West team, will join the board as part of the deal. Former Lex Autolease chief executive Rick Francis also joins as a non-executive director.

Smith said: “We’ve worked incredibly hard as a brand over the last decade to sustain our year-on-year growth, however now it’s time for something even more bold.

“Our core offering of agile, reliable, and trustworthy courier services will remain unchanged, but the new funding will allow us to invest in both driver training and the expansion of our fleet, allowing us take on even larger clients in new and exciting industries.

“I’d like to extend our well wishes to founders Mike Le-Gallez and Ian Southworth for their fantastic tenacity and recognise their achievement in creating the foundations to build this successful operation across the UK and Europe.”

Widdall added: “Speedy Freight has created a clear point of difference in the market through the business’ unparalleled high-service levels, responsiveness and national network capability. We’re delighted to be backing an extremely capable management team and ambitious network of franchisees to support their combined growth targets.

“Supply chains are becoming increasingly complex, but Speedy Freight simplifies this with efficient courier services, supported by investment in technology, that give its customers a competitive advantage. The business is ideally placed to expand its market share and support its fast-growing customers meet market demand."