Sportswear firm set to be a rising star after MBO


A family-run Yorkshire sportswear company, owner of the Prostar brand, and whose socks were worn by the team which first climbed Everest has undergone a management buy-out backed by Kenmore Private Equity.

Star Sportswear, a market leader in supplying kit for amateur footballers, has been owned by the Archbell family since 1916. Brothers Richard and Paul Archbell and other family members have now sold the Wakefield-based business to a three-strong management team.

Clearwater Corporate Finance advised the MBO team, which is led by new managing director Doug Bedford and includes sales and marketing director Shane Bray and finance director Alastair Harries. Yorkshire Bank provided the acquisition finance and working capital facilities for the transaction.

Star, which employs100 people and has a turnover of £11 million, sells training wear, playing kit and accessories under its Prostar brand. It is a market leader in the ‘park’ football market, comprising semi-professional and amateur teams, who typically look for high performance gear at a cost-effective price.

Commenting on the deal, Doug Bedford, managing director of Star said: “We are delighted to have acquired the prestigious Prostar brand. Star Sportswear has a great history with an enviable reputation in its market and we have ambitious plans to further expand our ranges and introduce more innovative and technical features as well as extending our high quality performance sportswear to a wider sporting audience.”

Simon Dempsey of Kenmore Private Equity added: “Star operates in a competitive market but stands out from its peers. I am delighted to support the management team and look forward to helping them realise the growth potential of the Prostar brand”.

Paul Newell, partner together with Karen Edwards, assistant director, led the Clearwater team. Edwards said: “This is a sound business with a strong management team and good track record, who I am sure will take the business to the next level.”

The business began in 1899 when RH Barker, one of the many yarn spinning mills in Wakefield, built a sock plant on adjoining land. The Star Knitting Co Ltd, as it was known, was acquired in 1916 by Harry Archbell, a manager at Patons & Baldwins of Halifax.

After the First World War the company moved into sportswear and before long its socks were worn by practically every football, rugby and hockey club in the country. In 1952 the Everest team led by Sir John Hunt selected Star climbing socks for the expedition. Star socks again conquered Everest in 1974 on the ascent led by Chris Bonnington.