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Nationwide changes hands in £49m MBI

MoT and car servicing network Nationwide Autocentres has changed hands in a £49m management buy-in (MBI) by former RAC senior managers.

Backed by private equity investor Phoenix Equity Partners the new management team is led by Duncan Wilkes as chief executive and supported by chief operating officer Bill Duffy and Andy Stevens, chief financial officer.

Outgoing chief executive Tom Dunn told AM he would be staying on during the transitional period “for a while, possibly a matter of months”.

Dunn, David Staniland, Roy Mitchell and Gwyn Jones formed Nationwide Autocentres in an MBI of 41 vehicle service centres from Lex Autocentres in January 2001. This deal was backed by NBGI Private Equity (NBGIPE).

The management team was subsequently strengthened by the appointment of Jim Cooper as finance director and Alan McWalter, the former M&S group marketing director, as non-executive chairman.

Nationwide's buy and build strategy included acquiring branches from the RAC in April 2002, Kwik-Fit in February 2003 and the AA in November 2004, with further equity funding from NBGIPE; it now operates 213 branches.

Last summer Dunn announced the group’s intention to expand in Scotland and had recruited Greg Dolan, a former right-hand man to Kwik-Fit and Farmer Autocare founder Sir Tom Farmer, to lead development. Dolan was responsible for much of Kwik-Fit’s growth in Scotland.

“We can’t be a truly national company if we’ve only got a handful of sites in Scotland,” said Dunn at the time. “We’ll be looking for group acquisitions as well as owner-operated independent sites in key areas. We’ve set no limit on how many businesses we can operate there.”

Nationwide has won numerous awards for its service, including being AM Repairer of the Year in both 2003 and 2004 and AM Trainer of the Year in 2005. Its rapid growth also led to inclusion in the 2005 Sunday Times FASTRACK 100 list of companies.

Wilkes said: "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 that we can deliver that potential.

“Nationwide is already unique as the only significant independent organisation able to provide drivers with mechanical repair, servicing and MoT tests across the country. We are determined that it will become the recognised leader in terms of service and value for its customers, rewards for its staff and growth for its investors."

Dunn said: "Over the last five years we have grown Nationwide Autocentres into the UK's leading car repair specialist. I am proud to have led and been part of the team that has accomplished this achievement and thank our current staff for their support.

“Nationwide is now poised for further growth and we wish the new management and owners success in taking the business to the next stage."

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