ONE of the most popular garden centres in Tunbridge Wells could soon be under new management after being placed on the market for £5million.
The Wyevale Garden Centre on Eridge Road is being sold off after its current owners, the private equity group Terra Firma, decided to divest itself of all 145 outlets that make up the chain.
The sale is likely to result in a handsome payday for Terra Firma founder Guy Hands, who formerly attended the Judd School in the 1970s and now resides near Sevenoaks.
Acquired by Terra Firma in 2012 for the sum of £276million, the Wyevale chain is now being valued at more than £400million by property specialists Christie & Co who have been appointed to oversee the sale. The first round of bidding ends on June 26.
News of the sale comes after the retailer benefitted from its strongest ever trading weekend during the first May bank holiday, which saw a year on year increase in sales of 61 per cent.
Although Christie & Co has been appointed to explore a range of options, including the sale of the entire business, it has also been asked to evaluate each individual garden centre as individual sales are also an option.
Due partly to the freehold nature of the Eridge Road site, the Tunbridge Wels outlet has been valued at £5million. By comparison, the neighbouring Wyevale Garden Centre in Paddock Wood is only a leasehold and looks set to fetch around £400,000.
The most expensive property in the portfolio can be found in the London borough of Sutton and is expected to fetch £35million if sold separately.
Roger Mclaughlan, CEO of Wyevale Garden Centres said the sale provides: “A fantastic opportunity for new long-term owners looking to enter the market and existing operators seeking to expand their current operations.”
Who is Guy Hands?
Born 1959 in London to South African parents, Guy Hands was educated at a number of primary schools before joining the Judd School in Tonbridge – an institution which now hosts the Guy Hands Library. Although challenged by severe dyslexia, he would go on to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Mansfield College, oxford. During his university years he befriended the future Conservative Party leader William Hague, who would later be best man at his wedding to his wife Julia.
His business career began in 1982 as bond trader at Goldman Sachs before he entered the world of private equity in the 1990s. In 2002 he set up Terra Firma, one of the largest private equity investors in Europe with total assets worth £4.7billion, which focuses on tuning around distressed companies.
Alongside Wyevale, the firm has at one time invested in bookmaker William Hill, EMI record label, Four Seasons Health Care and Odeon Cinemas.