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LAVA Advisory Partners leads transition of Park Cameras into Employee Ownership

LAVA Advisory Partners builds further traction in the hobbyist retail space with the successful sale of Park Cameras to an Employee Ownership Trust. Based in Burgess Hill, Park Cameras has been family-run for 50 years and has grown to become a £25+ million annual turnover enterprise.

This unique deal, which concluded in April 2021, sees Park Cameras’ employees take over the ownership of a rapidly-expanding business whilst retaining the family ethos and independence of the business in a market that has seen aggressive consolidation in recent times.

Park Cameras has been in business since 1971 and operates two stores in Burgess Hill, West Sussex and Fitzrovia, London as well as a successful e-commerce operation. While the economic downturn affected many retail businesses, Park Cameras flourished thanks to the buoyant hobbyist market and it was felt that now, on Park Cameras’ 50th anniversary, it was right to seek a new owner for the company.

The team at LAVA have been great to work with. And the approach they used helped validate all my options up front so that I was able to make the right choice for Park Cameras and all of its stakeholders. The EOT is an exciting step on our growth journey and I look forward to the ongoing partnership with the LAVA team as we seek to expand our business in the future.

Roscoe Atkins Managing Director and vendor of Park Cameras

LAVA sourced significant interest from trade acquirers and private equity investors, however, the fit and deal structures being offered never sat comfortably with Roscoe Atkins, the entrepreneurial owner of this family business. “We’ll never force a deal on anyone if it’s not right,” explains Founder and Partner of LAVA, Simon Woodcock. “We knew there was a better way to deliver shareholder value and to support this business in the growing hobbyist market. After assessing a wide range of routes, we recommended an Employee Ownership Trust.”

Employee Ownership Trusts (EOTs) are collective vehicles that hold a controlling stake in a business for the long-term benefit of staff shareholders. They were introduced by the UK Government in September 2014 and offer an alternative exit solution for owners who want the business they established to remain independent. With employees taking the controlling stake, EOTs often benefit from increased engagement and long-term commitment. Staff motivation and empowerment also have a direct impact on customer experience and satisfaction.

The deal represents another milestone for LAVA. Following on from arranging the capital funding agreement between Source BMX and BGF, it cements LAVA’s position as an established M&A house that isn’t afraid to do things differently. It also continues LAVA’s strategic approach of supporting the expansion of businesses in the high-value hobbyist market.

This really is a win-win situation. A huge part of our role is to really get under the skin of the situation and explore all options to drive value. Despite challenging market conditions, we hunted down a solution that delivered the right value for the owner while securing a bright future for a brilliant business and its employees. As with so many of our deals, we will continue working with the new ownership team at Park Cameras to support their long-term growth aspirations.

Claire Davis Partner at LAVA