The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Stairlift tycoon’s £26m dividend – as jobs are axed

- By Alex Lawson

SECRETIVE Monaco tycoon John Jakes has received a £26million dividend despite suffering a hit to revenues and cutting jobs last year.

Acorn Mobility Services, which makes and installs the electronic chairs, posted a 4.4 per cent slump in revenues to £230.6million in the year to September 30, 2020.

As part of a cost-cutting drive, the company reduced employee numbers by 128 to 1,460.

However, pre-tax profits rose 62 per cent to £44.9 million and the firm paid a £26.6million dividend, up from £23.8million a year earlier.

Acorn furloughed 263 non-essential staff, although it would not say whether it applied for Government money to fund wages under the job retention scheme.

Yorkshirem­an Jakes, who lives in the tax haven of Monaco and chairs the company, is known for receiving bumper payouts and has landed dividends of nearly £150million since 2010. He owns 100 per cent of the firm.

The accounts show the company has no bank debt and increased margins from 68 per cent to 71 per cent. Profit growth was aided by cost cuts and a marketing push.

Acorn declined to comment on furlough or the dividend.

Group finance director Joanne Richardson said: ‘With most of the world in lockdown, it was inevitable that we would install fewer stairlifts globally during the period covered by this report, but we recovered quickly. These are a positive set of results.’

Jakes set up Acorn in 1992 in Bradford, initially doing up used stairlifts before turning to manufactur­ing them two years later.

In 2001, Acorn bought Brooks Stairlifts, whose founder created the first British stairlift in the early 1970s for his wife.

Jakes has expanded Acorn into western Europe, the US and Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Its stairlifts are manufactur­ed in the UK at factories in Steeton and Shipley, West Yorkshire, and at Haddington, near Edinburgh. More than 70 per cent of its income comes from overseas markets.

The company, which employs TV doctor Hilary Jones as a medical adviser, has been forced to rework its operations during the pandemic to protect its customers – typically older people. Its employees adhere to strict social distancing and limit their time in customers’ homes. It says stairlifts with digital faults can often be fixed remotely.

Jakes is also a 7.3 per cent shareholde­r in listed funerals operator Dignity. The stock has gained 34 per cent this year.

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