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51% Stake In Budget Greeting Cards Sold To Canadian Private Equity Company, Ardenton Capital

In what is a thumbs-up for the greeting card sector, Canadian private equity company Ardenton Capital Corporation has bought a 51% stake in Budget Greeting Cards (BGC), the UK’s largest greeting card wholesaler, which also has a sizeable card publishing operation, under Budget Greetings Studios (BGS).

The deal, for an undisclosed sum, caught the attention of the international press, with the Sunday Times (March 10) which fanfared it as ‘Windfall for gift boss Paul Lavery’.

The company has certainly come a long way since Belfast-born Paul Lavery and his brother, Martin, borrowed £7,000 from Bank of Ireland to buy a newsagent back in the 1970s. Their attentions escalated to wholesaling greeting cards and their savvy business nous has seen them expand to eight cash-and-carry wholesale operations in Britain and Ireland with a head office in Manchester. Dunstable is the newest in the Budget portfolio, which opened in August 2015, strengthening the Budget name in the south of England. It joined the existing Budget wholesale operations in Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Dublin, Gateshead and Manchester. The company had a turnover of £36 million in its last financial year and employs 180 people.

Above: Paul Lavery (second left) at a Henries event with some of his collegues.
Above: Paul Lavery (second left) at a Henries event with some of his collegues.

Pivotal to Budget’s growth and continued supply in the wholesale sector was its decision to move into greeting card publishing, acquiring several greeting card brands as well as developing its own.

Despite no longer having the majority share, Paul Lavery is to remain with the business under the new set-up while his brother Martin is exiting the business but will remain involved on a consultancy basis.

Above: Company co-founder Martin Lavery at The Retas 2014 at which Budget won the Best Greeting Card Wholesaler award.
Above: Company co-founder Martin Lavery at The Retas 2014 at which Budget won the Best Greeting Card Wholesaler award.

As Paul summed up: “The business has been trading well for more than 30 years, so it was crucial for us that we found an investor who believed in the long-term growth of the company. Ardenton’s strategy of a long-term investment model focused on developing robust sustainable growth was aligned closely with our own aspirations, and made Ardenton the best investor to help take BGC to the next level.”

Above: Ardenton’s investment in BGC sends out a positive signal about the robustness of the sector.
Above: Ardenton’s investment in BGC sends out a positive signal about the robustness of the sector.

Paul is quoted in the Sunday Times as saying that the deal would lead to Budget expanding into the south of England and “maybe Canada”.

In the short term BGC will launch a new cash and carry outlet in Nottingham and will commence development of an online presence.

Above: A new Budget cash and carry is set to open in Nottingham.
Above: A new Budget cash and carry is set to open in Nottingham.

Supporting the partnership between Ardenton and BGC is Director, Strategic Development, Allan Dunn. Based in the firm’s Manchester office, Allan is ideally located to oversee the implementation of the Ardenton Operating System (“AOS”) at BGC, focusing on business improvement and growth.

 

Top: Canadian private equity company Ardenton Capital has bought a 51% stake in Budget Greeting Cards.

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