Food firm to be sold to Amer­i­cans in £2.2bn deal

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Brakes Sale - By Chris Price

Brakes Group, the cater­ing sup­plier, is set to be taken over by Amer­i­can food dis­trib­u­tor Sysco in a £2.2 bil­lion deal.

Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion au­thor­i­ties will need to ap­prove the ac­qui­si­tion of the Ash­ford-based com­pany, which sup­plies fresh, re­frig­er­ated and frozen food to 50,000 pubs, restau­rants, ho­tels, hospi­tals, schools and con­tract cater­ers across Europe.

If ap­proved, Sysco will re­pay about £1.6 bil­lion of Brakes’ fi­nan­cial debt, and it would op­er­ate as a stand­alone com­pany within its new US owner.

Brakes, which em­ploys 15,000 peo­ple across Europe, will con­tinue to be led by chief ex­ec­u­tive Ken McMeikan should the deal be com­pleted as ex­pected in July. His man­age­ment team and the rest of the em­ployee base will re­main in place, with 729 staff work­ing in Ash­ford at its head­quar­ters at En­ter­prise House on the Eureka Busi­ness Park in Ken­ning­ton and a con­tact cen­tre in Bridge Road, Ash­ford.

Sysco chief ex­ec­u­tive Bill De­Laney said: “This trans­ac­tion will unite Sysco with a lead­ing food ser­vice dis­trib­u­tor in Europe with demon­strated ca­pa­bil­ity to sus­tain­ably grow its busi­ness over time.

“Be­gin­ning with a com­mon cus­tomer-cen­tric mind­set, our com­pa­nies are strate­gi­cally aligned with com­pat­i­ble cul­tures and sim­i­lar busi­ness mod­els.”

Brakes Group was founded as Brake Bros (Poul­try Pack­ers) in 1958 by brothers Wil­liam, Frank and Peter Brake as a poul­try sup­plier to cater­ers across Bri­tain.

They opened a cooked-food fac­tory at Len­ham in the 1960s, mainly pro­duc­ing ready meals for the pub mar­ket.

The busi­ness listed on the Lon­don Stock Ex­change in 1986. The found­ing fam­ily sold its share­hold­ing in 2002 and it was bought by present own­ers Bain Cap­i­tal Pri­vate Equity in 2007.

Dwight Poler, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Bain Cap­i­tal Pri­vate Equity, which has in­vested more than £100 mil­lion in the firm, said: “Since we bought Brakes Group in 2007, the busi­ness has been trans­formed with an e-com­merce plat­form, multi-tem­per­a­ture dis­tri­bu­tion in­fra­struc­ture, and cus­tomer ser­vice en­hance­ments.

“There is still a huge mar­ket op­por­tu­nity ahead that I am con­fi­dent Brakes Group is very well placed to de­liver with Sysco.”

What do you think? Write to Ken­tish Ex­press, 34-36 North Street, Ash­ford TN24 8JR or email ken­tish­ex­press@thek­m­ Brakes boss Ken McMeikan said: “It’s very ex­cit­ing for Brakes Group to be join­ing the recog­nised world­wide leader in food ser­vice dis­tri­bu­tion.

“Last year we said we would look for the best strate­gic op­tion for Brakes Group’s next stage of de­vel­op­ment.

“Our mis­sion is sim­ple: to help busi­nesses who serve food to thrive, and be­com­ing part of the Sysco fam­ily will help us get closer to­ward achiev­ing that great out­come for our cus­tomers, col­leagues and sup­pli­ers.”

Pic­ture: Wayne McCabe

The Ash­ford head­quar­ters of Brakes group, which is be­ing taken over by Sysco

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