Online tyre retailer Blackcircles.com has been sold to Michelin for £50 million, making its founder Mike Welch a multi-millionaire.
Welch founded the business fifteen years ago at the age of 21, and developed it into a 'click and fit' model whereby customers buy their tyres online and select a workshop from a network of 1,350 partnering independent garages, to which the tyres are delivered for fitting.
It claims to undercut conventional tyre sales by between 20% and 40%, and partnered with Tesco to launch Tesco Tyres, which has an online shop and fitting bays at a small number of supermarkets.
Blackcircles.com achieved annual sales of £28m in 2013.
Welch will stay with the company. The Michelin deal opens up expertise and a much wider distribution network, without limiting Blackcircles.com to the parent company's brand products.
Michelin already owns the conventional tyre distributor ATS Euromaster, and the French firm hopes there will be synergies between the two distributors, although Blackcircles.com will continue to operate independently within the Michelin group.
"I'm delighted to have found in Michelin a partner who shares our passion for customer service, innovation and technology," said Welch.
"The strength of the Michelin Group will allow us to underpin the multi-brand offering that we deploy in each garage, on every street corner.
"I am convinced that our teams, our customers, our garages and our suppliers will rapidly start to see the benefits of this partnership."
Jean-Dominique Senard, chief executive of the Michelin Group, said: "Our strategy illustrates our ambition: to be ever more innovative, efficient and proactive for our customers by offering them products and services suited to individual needs, and by simplifying the entire purchase process, from choosing their tyres to having them fitted by professionals."