Clearwater Corporate Finance advises Counterline shareholders on MBI


The Manchester office of Clearwater Corporate Finance has advised the shareholders of Counterline Limited – a leading designer, manufacturer and distributor of food display units and servery counters in the UK on the realisation of their controlling interest in the company and their subsequent re-investment in the management buy-in.

The MBI team are Jeremy Sokel (42) who will become chief executive and Krys Szokalo (50) who will become managing director of Counterline. Geoffrey Bibby becomes non-executive chairman. The current management team will continue in their existing roles.

Operating from two sites on the Knowsley Business Park (near Liverpool), the £12 million turnover business, which employs over 180, has become recognised within the UK market as the leading provider of high quality bespoke and standard food servery counters and equipment. The company has seen significant growth in the retail sector, particularly with leading supermarkets and major coffee shop chains. Richard Baker (52) and Trevor Douce (56), who founded the company in 1983 said they were delighted to see the business moving forward under the strong leadership of Szokalo and Sokel. “Krys and Jeremy will bring strong manufacturing and business development skills to Counterline.

“We have been looking for some time to reduce our involvement with the business, and are pleased to have been offered an interest in the new company .We see this MBI team as the ideal opportunity to fulfil these aspirations.”

Funding for the MBI team is being provided by Allied Irish Bank and Bibby Factors, both based in Liverpool and the MSIMF (Merseyside Special Investment Mezzanine Fund). This transaction represents the second investment by the MSIMF in the business in the last three years.

Jeremy Sokel said “We are looking forward to working with the current management and employees of Counterline in order to move the business forward. We will continue to provide quality products and service to all our customers. We would like to thank all those who have worked hard to effect the transaction and also Counterline’s customers and suppliers who support Counterline and have wished the new team well.”

Counterline has strong relationships with many major blue chip clients and its ability to produce high quality counters and associated equipment has helped it secure new business worldwide.

Leading the Clearwater Corporate Finance team was principal Mike Reeves assisted by Karl Moss and Jon Mercer. Reeves said; “Both Richard and Trevor had been joint chairmen of the business for many years and had reduced their involvement in the company.

“Under the leadership of the new MBI team, Counterline can realise the potential of the innovative product range and strong customer base.”

Historically the company had concentrated on bespoke counter manufacture, building a reputation for high quality, unique designs. Recognising the food service trends in the US, the company made a strategic decision in 1997 to introduce standard products to its existing portfolio. It broke into this rapidly expanding sector fuelled by the growth in over the counter convenience foods offered by the major supermarkets and other retail outlets.

The sites at Knowsley now provide the manufacturing capability to produce not only the traditional high specification bespoke work, but also the production of the standard product range under the brand names Vision, Experience and idesign.

Richard Baker commented; “There are exciting times ahead for this business under the leadership of Krys and Jeremy. The reorganisation undertaken in Counterline in recent years means it is now in excellent shape to be driven to even greater heights. We strongly believe in the MBI team and wish them every success”.

Lawyers Anna Whetham and Sean Fitzgerald from Pinsent Curtis Biddle in Manchester advised the shareholders on the sale of their controlling interest whilst Sharon White and Jenny Cottrell of Stephenson Harwood based in London acted for the MBI team.