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OakNorth Bank completes £6.5m deal with Rockpool Investments to support the acquisition of Primrose, the UK’s largest online pureplay garden retailer


OakNorth – the bank for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs – has completed a deal with Rockpool Investments to part finance the acquisition of Primrose, one of the UK’s largest pureplay online garden retailers. Rockpool has invested c.£350m in 70 companies across a diverse range of industries since its inception in 2012.


Founded in 2003, Primrose has an active customer base of more than 2.5m people with its products sold in the UK, US, and Europe. Rockpool will support the business in expanding its product offering across new categories, investing in its website and enabling it to expand its reach across Europe. Mark Pearson who has 30 years’ experience in the industry, will become the company’s CEO. Rockpool has appointed a highly-experienced private equity industry chairman, David Brock, as non-executive chairman and will appoint a further non-executive director to support the business, with one of their partners, Darran Green, attending Primrose board meetings as the investor representative.


There have been several investments by private equity firms in the UK garden sector over the last few years – Foresight Private Equity’s acquisition of Hobbies Direct in June, Midlothian and Hattington Capital’s acquisition of Dobbies Garden Centres in 2016, and Rutland Partners’ acquisition of Gardman Group in 2015.


Commenting on the deal, Adam Agius, debt finance director at OakNorth, said: “Primrose is a well-run online business with an excellent reputation for providing high-quality garden products, service and support. In Rockpool, they’ve found a partner who can help take the business to the next level and ensure it’s prepared for a future that’s increasingly digital and increasingly international. Mark Pearson has been working alongside senior management at Primrose for a year so is well positioned to transition to CEO. We’re delighted to have supported the business with this acquisition and look forward to working with Rockpool on future transactions.”


Darran Green, Partner at Rockpool Investments, said: “Online sales of garden products account for approx. £650m of overall UK garden retail sales (13 percent share) and are expected to increase to £840m by 2020. Primrose is in a prime position to take advantage of this with a dedicated and growing customer base, solid partner and supplier relationships, and a market-leading product range. Mark has a strong track record of profitable business growth, strategic planning, and operational change management in SME and blue-chip US multinational organisations. He is the perfect candidate to lead this business into the next stage of its growth and we’re excited to help Primrose on its journey.”


Andrew Dodds and Laura Barrett from Stevens and Bolton were external legal advisors to OakNorth on the transaction.

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