Training company set to develop and grow after £15m MBO


Develop Training (“Develop”), a leading provider of training services to the utility sector, has undergone a £15 million management buy-out in a deal backed by Barclays Ventures.

Clearwater Corporate Finance advised the four-strong management team on the deal and HSBC Leveraged Finance provided acquisition debt facilities.

Develop has training centres in York, Derby, Swindon, Glasgow, Bradford, Warrington and Whitwell, near Oakham. It is the market leader in the provision of training to the water and gas industry, and also serves clients in the rail, electrical, mechanical and building services fields.

Many of its courses are obligatory for clients to meet health and safety standards. With turnover of c.£16 million Develop is a leading technical training supplier to organisations such as National Grid, Anglian Water, the Ministry of Defence, Thames Water, British Telecom and NHS Estates.

The buy-out gives control of the business to Cheryl Foreman, previously managing director and now chief executive, sales director Russell Coleman and finance director Simon Duckworth. The previous owner and chief executive, Stephen Cowell, has also retained a shareholding and becomes executive chairman.

Develop started life as the commercial arm of Northumberland Training and Enterprise Council (TEC), of which Stephen Cowell was chief executive. With the government’s decision to close down TECs, Cowell led a MBO of the business in 2002 with backing from NVM Private Equity.

Cheryl Foreman said: “I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with our new funding partners and to drive the business forward to realize its full potential. Key to this will be to continue to work in partnership with our clients in delivering high standards of technical and health and safety training to help them to achieve their business objectives. In addition to our core gas and water training we are pleased with the continuing strengthening of our offering in courses for the transportation and facilities management sectors.”

Simon Kelsall, regional director, Barclays Ventures, who led on the deal from Birmingham, commented: “We view technical skills and health and safety training, particularly in the utility sector, as an industry with tremendous potential for growth, and Develop is really well positioned to build on its success to date. It has an excellent management team under Cheryl Foreman and we look forward to working with them in the future.”

The Clearwater team consisted of partner Jon Hustler and assistant director Karen Edwards. Jon Hustler said: “Develop has built a strong reputation for providing quality training and expanded rapidly under the leadership of Stephen Cowell and Cheryl Foreman. Cheryl and her team have ambitious growth plans that include opening new training centres, expanding into other sectors and making further acquisitions to build market presence. The deal will allow them to pursue these opportunities”.

HBJ Gateley Wareing in Birmingham advised Newco and the management team. DLA Piper in Birmingham provided legal advice to Barclays Ventures, while Pinsents acted for HSBC, and Muckle LLP of Newcastle acted for the vendors.