AM Online

Leading repairer sold

Nationwide Autocentres chief executive Tom Dunn and his senior management team will leave the business after a transitional period following the £49m acquisition funded by private equity investor Phoenix Equity Partners.

A new management team, headed by former RAC Motor Solutions director Duncan Wilkes as chief executive, takes immediate control of the MoT and car servicing network.

Dunn will stay for a couple of months to ensure a smooth changeover. He will also be retained on a consultancy business for a year and is bonded by agreement to stay out of similar motor trade business for the next two years.

Phoenix moved for Nationwide after venture capitalist NBGI’s five-year investment term finished.

NBGI, which backed Dunn’s original MBO from Lex Autocentres in 2001, was looking to realize its assets, although it was believed that the MBO team – Dunn, David Staniland, Roy Mitchell and Gwyn Jones, who jointly held a 55% stake – would acquire the remaining shares after they tabled a bid last year.

The new management team, which also includes chief operating officer Bill Duffy and chief financial officer Andy Stevens, intends to follow Nationwide’s existing strategy. First, however, they will consolidate the business after five years of relentless growth, which has taken the network to 213 outlets.

Wilkes says: “We are investing in Nationwide because it is a good business with great potential. We expect to invest further in the people and the infrastructure of the company so we can realize that potential.

“We are determined that Nationwide will become the recognized leader in terms of service and value for its customers, rewards for its staff and growth for its investors.”

Nationwide has an annual turnover of around £75m with profits of £6m. Dunn’s strategy was to grow the network to 300 sites, targeting Scotland as a key opportunity. He believes there will be “a slight pause” before the group begins the next phase of expansion.

“The incoming management team is extremely experienced. The business is in good hands,” he adds.

Dunn – this year’s AM personality of the year – does not plan to retire on his earnings just yet (reports estimate the original MBO team share £27m from the deal). He intends to get back into business when he has an opportunity, although this might include property or aviation – two areas where he already has interests – until the two-year bond period expires.

Nationwide has won numerous awards for its service, including AM repairer of the year in 2003, 2005 and now 2006, plus training company in 2005.

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