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Insight: Charles Hurst/Lookers

Since fending off the unwanted attentions of Pendragon last year, Lookers has become the darling of the City. It was arguably that drawn-out skirmish which put the company on the City’s radar for the first time.

The UK’s fifth-biggest retail group sells 44,500 new and 39,000 used cars a year, turns over £1.65bn and makes a pre-tax profit of £26.3m. With a market capitalisation of £319m, Lookers has enjoyed a buoyant share price over the past 18 months.

Bullish statements made by the board about their growth plans during the Pendragon saga helped. And they’ve kept their word, adding 27 franchised outlets over the past 12 months and negotiating for more.

Key to Lookers’ success is its family culture, and the rudiments can be traced to the acquisition in 1996 of the Charles Hurst business in Northern Ireland. Two Charles Hurst executives joined the Lookers board and both have been in charge of the whole group: first Fred Maguire; now Ken Surgenor.

They have sprinkled the Charles Hurst magic – autonomy, tight back-office controls, franchise focus, regionalisation, staff drive – on the rest of the Lookers business. But it remains the performance of Charles Hurst, particularly its 20-acre site on Boucher Road in Belfast, that is fundamental to the group’s success.

  • Read this story in full in the July 13 issue of AM. To subscribe to AM magazine click here or call 01733 468659.
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