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AM Awards: Hall of fame winner, Tony Bramall

Hall of fame award sponsored by MAPFRE Abraxas

Few businessmen can lay claim to building two hugely successful plcs, virtually from scratch. In the motor industry, there has been just one: Tony Bramall.

During a career spanning almost five decades, Bramall has created two of the biggest and most profitable retail groups in the UK, sold them both, then returned for a third time. He is now a non-executive director of another plc, Lookers.

Bramall qualified as a chartered accountant in 1960. After two years as manager of a south Yorkshire finance company, he joined the family firm Hamilton and Bramall. 

In 1967 he became managing director, sparking 11 years of acquisition and growth. He renamed the group as CD Bramall and floated the company in 1978.

In 1987, he sold CD Bramall to Avis for £94 million.
His ‘retirement’ was short-lived. Three years on, Bramall returned to the industry with the acquisition of Sanderson, Murray and Elder, an ex-textile company which he used as a plc shell to create Sanderson Bramall Motor Group.

The same year, 1990, he bought back three dealerships from Avis to create a £23 million turnover group. 

Five years later, the group was turning over £517 million after a number of purchases, including 18 dealerships from Skipper Group and Thrifty Car Rental. In 1998, the company was renamed CD Bramall plc. By 2002, after further acquisitions, turnover had reached £1.4 billion.

The following year Bramall bought Albany Lease and in 2002 he acquired north-west retail group Quicks, taking turnover to £1.4 billion.

Despite the rapid growth, Bramall has always been careful to absorb new dealerships into the business culture. Profitability has been maintained, even during the most rapid periods of expansion.

It came as no surprise in 2004 when the group, now the second largest in the UK with a turnover £1.8 billion, was courted by the country’s largest retail group Pendragon and eventually bought for £230 million.

Was retirement finally on the cards for Bramall, now aged 68. Definitely not as just months later he launched Bramall & Jones in a joint venture with former CD Bramall chief executive Peter Jones.

Starting with two Audi dealer-ships bought back from Pendragon, the business now has four Audi dealerships.
Last year, it achieved the highest return on sales in the AM100: clearly Bramall hadn’t lost the knack of making money.

But then came a major twist to the story. With Pendragon making a double play for its two nearest rivals, Reg Vardy and Lookers, Bramall stepped into the fray, buying a 24.4% stake in Lookers to effectively halt any hopes Pendragon had to buy the business.

Bramall has since relinquished day-to-day control of Bramall & Jones. He has sold shares in Lookers and now owns a 22.29% stake and has a seat on the board.

Tony Bramall has been at the centre of the UK automotive retail industry for more than 40 years. 

But he also has other, less publicised, interests. Through the Tony Bramall Charitable Trust, he gives significant support to a variety of good causes.

A comment about the trust from his friend and business partner, Peter Jones, speaks volumes about the man: “Tony, being Tony, never seeks any associated publicity for his charitable work.”

See the awards photo gallery.

Read full coverage of the AM Awards in the 6 March 09 issue of AM. To subscribe to AM magazine click here or call 01733 468659.




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