European law firm Fieldfisher's market leading employee ownership team has advised on the creation of three new employee ownership trusts (EOTs), securing a sustainable future and succession plan for more British companies.
In December 2022, Fieldfisher acted for Poole, Dorset-based Blue Sky Financial Planning on transferring 100% of its shares to an EOT.
Founded in 2002 by Gary Neild, Blue Sky has been transferred to its employees to secure the legacy of the business, and use the new arrangement as a catalyst for further dynamic change and innovation.
This was followed in March 2023 by the transfer of FMDC, a London-based design and engineering consultancy which specialises in designing facades for buildings, to an EOT.
FMDC provides facades and building services to many of the best-known buildings in London and across the UK, with clients including Bloomberg, British Land, the Crown Estate and Legal and General.
FMDC's decision to move to employee ownership reflects the commitment of its directors to the company's long-term future and sustainable growth, in particular through promoting increased staff participation in decision making and the day-to-day running of the business.
Most recently, Stroud, Gloucestershire-based garden furniture retailer Bramblecrest announced that it had converted to an employee-owned business, having been advised by Fieldfisher and corporate finance advisers RVE Corporate Finance.
Bramblecrest was founded in 2000 by two friends who were inspired by a Javanese terracotta pot factory to bring their own brand of stylish, quality garden furniture made from sustainable materials to the UK market. Today the company has a team of 50 employees, who now collectively own the majority of Bramblecrest through an EOT.
Blue Sky, FMDC and Bramblecrest were advised by Fieldfisher corporate partner Neil Palmer, supported by tax and structuring director Jennifer Martin, both from the firm's specialist EO team. Neil and Jennifer were assisted by associates Maxine Smith, Jessica Kilkelly and Nick Currie.
Commenting on the firm's latest EOT completions, Neil Palmer said:
"2023 has seen a strong start for employee ownership transactions, as the popularity of this type of ownership structure builds year-on-year. We have several other deals in the pipeline, so 2023 is proving to be a busy year.
"Fieldfisher has been advising clients on employee ownership structures for more than 30 years. The clear pattern emerging is that there is a high demand for these structures from conscientious business owners who have run their companies for years – often decades – who care about their staff and want to ensure a sustainable future for those businesses that protects their values and ethos.
"EOTs have proved to be the ideal route to achieving this objective."
Commenting on his company's move to EOT, Gary Neild, founder of Blue Sky Financial Planning said:
"Any succession plan had to protect our legacy and continue to support our ethos and culture while providing continuity for both clients and the team at Blue Sky. Transferring 100% of the ownership to the team has been amazing. The atmosphere among the team is a heady mixture of excitement and calmness."
Gary went onto to say that Blue Sky sees the EOT as an opportunity to elevate the company's proposition to even higher levels as a catalyst for positive change, engaging all members of the team.
"I would like to thank Neil and his team at Fieldfisher for holding our hands through the process and supporting us at every juncture. What I particularly liked, beside their obvious expertise, was the manner in which they dealt with us, helping the whole process run smoothly. As financial planners we encourage our clients to enjoy their money while they have good health, without worrying about money. Fulfilment in life is the nirvana for most. I’m pleased to say that in business terms, by embracing the EOT, Blue Sky has most definitely found its nirvana!"
Duncan Richards, Managing Director of FMDC said:
“Fieldfisher made the creation of our EOT painless. We were taken through the legal intricacies in a way that was easily digested and understood, without being submerged in unnecessary detail. Fieldfisher made themselves available at short notice, for ad hoc meetings and video calls, to keep the momentum going. From our perspective, it ran to programme and was very successful."
Hugo Douglas-Pennant, director of Bramblecrest added:
"Moving ownership of our business to an EOT felt like the right decision for a company rooted in friendship and passion for what we do. Our employees are by far the best possible custodians of Bramblecrest. We chose to work with Fieldfisher on this process because of the team's history and experience in setting up EOTs; a reputation that
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