Grower of the Year Neame Lea to triple capacity following £30m management buyout

NorthEdge Capital has invested a reported £30 million in Bridge Farm Nurseries, better known as Neame Lea, the producer of ornamental plants, flowers and herbs in the UK, backing a management buyout from its family shareholders.

David Ball
David Ball

Spalding-based Bridge Farm supplies UK supermarkets under the brand name Neame Lea and is the 2017 UK Protected Ornamentals Grower of the Year.

NorthEdge says Bridge Farm’s core supermarket customer base, which includes Tesco and Aldi, is growing faster than the overall market as supermarkets increase garden ranges targeting shoppers buying for convenience or on impulse, and accordingly securing a greater share of the market.

The business operates from five locations around Spalding, including its flagship site at Horseshoe Road. The company has 500 employees at peak times.

Bridge Farm has invested significantly in recent years in glasshouse infrastructure and biomass heating. NorthEdge’s investment will allow the management team to continue this capital expenditure programme, tripling its capacity and developing further its highly differentiated market proposition.

The MBO was led by Bridge Farm chief executive officer David Ball who has led the transformation of the business over the last five years.

The deal was led by NorthEdge director, head of Midlands, Rob Freer with support from Andrew Skinner (investment manager), Phil Frame (investment director) and Dan Matkin (investment manager). Rob Freer will sit on the board in a non-executive capacity.

Clive Sharpe, former chairman of Quorn Foods and former chief executive of Golden Wonder and WT Foods has been appointed non-executive chairman.

Ball said: "We are delighted to have concluded the MBO with funding from NorthEdge, who have been very supportive throughout the process. NorthEdge and management have a shared vision for the business over the coming years and with this renewed focus we will work tirelessly to ensure that Bridge Farm achieves its full potential."

Rob Freer, director at NorthEdge Capital, added: "We are delighted that Bridge Farm is the first investment for our Midlands office. The company is recognised by its customers as a best-in-class provider of ornamental plants, flowers and herbs. David has had the vision to change the traditional operating model and built a business of scale, with a highly differentiated competitive position and strong customer relationships.  NorthEdge’s investment will support an extensive capex programme over the next two years to allow the team to capitalise further on the market opportunities, securing additional customer relationships and delivering strong shareholder value. We look forward to working with David and his team to realise their ambitions." 

EY arranged the deal and provided Newco and management advice. Their team was led by Neil Meredith and supported by Mark Day, Sadiya Bi, Barry Moss and Louise Leung.

Neil Meredith, corporate finance partner at EY, said: "David is a prime example of the exceptional entrepreneurial talent we have in the UK and a previous EY Entrepreneur Of The Year regional finalist. It has been a pleasure to help him realise his ambition of owning the business he has transformed over the past few years and we wish him continued success in the future."

Buyside legal advice was provided by Tom Durrant, Gareth John, Colin Gittus and Priyadevi Thakker at Gateley plc.

Sellside and management legal advice was provided by Gavin Cummings and Sandra Wong at Browne Jacobson LLP.

Gavin Cummings, partner and head of business services at Browne Jacobson, added: "The transaction paves the way for a significant investment in the business which will help consolidate Bridge Farm’s position as one of the UK’s leading providers of ornamental plants, flowers and herbs." 

Peter Seary and Lizzie Walters of Roythornes Solicitors represented management alongside Browne Jacobson.

Other advisers on the deal included: FDD by John Houlden and Dougal Baxter (EY), CDD by David Larsson and Robert Pyle (EY Parthenon), IT DD by Andrew Ash (Intechnica), Insurance DD by Peter Vernon (Marsh), Management DD by Maurice Willoughby (Strategic Resource Solutions), EHS DD by Jonathan Van Der Westhuizen (ERM), Property DD by James  Sadler (Savills), Operations DD by Susanna Mitterer and Andie Hallihan (Syngroup) and Tax DD by Simon Viner (PwC).

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next



Masses of colourful tubular flowers can give these plants a substantial presence in the border, says Miranda Kimberley.

Tomorrow's tractors

Tomorrow's tractors

These machines have advanced rapidly over recent years but what does the future hold? Sally Drury looks ahead.

Climbing roses

Climbing roses

Walls, trellises, pergolas and even trees can all be brightened up by these beautiful blooms, writes Miranda Kimberley.

Opinion... Shining a light on trading with Europe

Opinion... Shining a light on trading with Europe

Accurate figures are notoriously difficult to get at, but without doubt the UK imports a great deal of its ornamental plant requirement.

Opinion... Unbeatable delight of quality plants

Opinion... Unbeatable delight of quality plants

Viewing top-quality plants, both growing and on sale, always gives me pleasure.

Editorial ... More analysis and insight from bumper HW issue

Editorial ... More analysis and insight from bumper HW issue

Welcome to this bumper 72-page July edition of Horticulture Week magazine, packed with exclusive analysis, insight and expert advice on the biggest issues impacting all sectors of the UK horticulture industry right now.

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Tim Edwards

Boningales Nursery chairman Tim Edwards on the business of ornamentals production

Read Tim Edwards

Ornamentals ranking

Top 30 Ornamentals Nurseries by Turnover 2017

Top 30 Ornamentals Nurseries by Turnover 2017

Tough retail pricing policies and Brexit opportunities drive the top 30 growth strategies.

Pest & Disease Tracker bulletin 

The latest pest and disease alerts, how to treat them, plus EAMU updates, sent direct to your inbox.

Sign up here

Are you a landscape supplier?

Horticulture Week Landscape Project Leads

If so, you should be receiving our new service for Horticulture Week subscribers delivering landscape project leads from live, approved, planning applications across the UK.

Peter Seabrook

Inspiration and insight from travels around the horticultural world

Read more Peter Seabrook articles