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Camden cash helps Crystal buy Astle

Lincolnshire Nissan and Renault dealer Crystal Motor Group has added BMW and Mini to its franchises with the purchase of Astle Group.

The move has been supported by a 45% investment in Crystal by Camden Group. The addition of Astle’s two car and one motorcycle dealerships in Scunthorpe and Grimsby puts Crystal’s turnover up from £20m to £70m.

For Crystal’s managing director Mike Baldry it renews links with BMW. In 1997 Baldry launched and managed BMW’s fleet management subsidiary, Alphabet GB. He left in 2003 to take over Crystal. It then had a turnover of £7m.

“BMW is a brand that I’ve always held in high regard. It’s a great franchise and makes fantastic products that people want,” said Baldry. “Mini is a great brand too.”

Camden’s interest in Crystal is from an investor’s perspective. Such a move is unusual compared to a direct takeover – Tony Bramall’s purchase of a 24.4% stake in Lookers last year is the most recent high-profile instance of a motor retailer investing in another dealer.

Baldry told AM he is not seeking to sell up completely. “I wanted to make sure the business was capitalised properly for the expansion and get some investment,” he added.

Baldry said he could draw on Camden’s management expertise when necessary. He knows Camden’s chief executive Paul Dunkley from when Camden was owned by Barclays Bank Group and Baldry headed Barclay’s leasing subsidiary Dial Contracts.

Chris Astle, owner of Astle Group, is understood to have left motor retail.

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