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Forrester’s ambitious Vertu plans

Robert Forrester, former managing director of Reg Vardy, should by Christmas have financial backing to start acquiring franchised groups in 2007.

He announced the formation of Vertu Motors plc early this month before embarking on a tour of more than 40 financial institutions to negotiate financial backing.

The intention is to float Vertu on the London stock exchange’s AIM market by the end of the year, raising an initial £15m for buying dealerships. At present he has none.

Forrester has put around £400,000 into Vertu, most of his post-tax pay-off following Vardy’s acquisition by Pendragon. Three other Vertu founders have invested a total of £100,000.

Bill Teasdale, non-executive chairman, was a Vardy non-executive director and its audit committee chairman. Also in the Vertu start-up team are two ex-Vardy employees – Tom Fairgrieve (who was regional operations director) and Karen Anderson (Vardy’s financial controller).

Forrester says: “Vertu is excellently placed to contribute to the consolidation of the highly-fragmented motor retail market, and to work in close partnership with a number of major car manufacturers.”

His confidence is based on experience gained at Reg Vardy plc and good connections at a senior level with many car manufacturers.

A source close to Vertu says: “Forrester is not setting a target size for his group, nor putting a limit on it. He believes a number of motor retail group owners believe this would be a good time to be taken over.

“Motor retail consolidation is gathering pace and he is likely to be quite aggressive in growing Vertu over the next five years.”

Forrester wants to base Vertu on volume franchises, believing many outlet acquisitions can be achieved because group owners have to contend with slim margins and manufacturer pressure to achieve sales targets.

Some manufacturers are likely to have informal lists of owners who might welcome an approach from Vertu, which is based at Newcastle upon Tyne.

One source says: “His intention is to make the most of economies of scale in back-office functions, while setting high standards in the way Vertu operates, and in its financial controls.”

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