Nicholas Marshall replaces John Cleland at Dobbies

The only man to have run three quoted garden centre businesses, Nicholas Marshall, has returned to the industry to run Dobbies after John Cleland's departure from the Edinburgh-based 34-centre group.

John Cleland had spent nine months in the post after Midlothian Capital Partners and Hattington Capital bought Dobbies from Tesco in 2016.

Tesco confirmed the sale of its Dobbies Garden Centres business to an investor group led by Midlothian Capital Partners and Hattington Capital in July 2016. Marshall is a former business associate of Andrew Bracey of Midlothian.

Former Country Gardens and Wyevale chief executive Nicholas Marshall has been in the garden centre business for more than 30 years.

He told Horticulture Week: "In 2000 there were three garden centre chains, all quoted, Country Gardens, Wyevale and Dobbies, and now I’ve run all three, which is a record."

Asked why he had returned to the industry four and a half years after leaving Wyevale when Guy Hands’ Terra Firma private equity group bought it for £276m in 2012, Marshall said: "Because of the challenge. The people that own Dobbies are long-term investors with private family money put into it and we all want to be involved with the best business in the garden centre industry and they know I can help with that."

Nicholas Marshall founded and built two garden centre chains: Country Gardens, which was sold for over £120m and Country Homes and Gardens PLC.

He was also CEO of Wyevale Garden Centres for four years, taking it from near administration to a successful sale for £300m.

Chairman Andrew Bracey said: "I have known Nicholas for many years. He is one of the most successful leaders the industry has ever seen and we are thrilled that he has joined Dobbies as CEO.

"Since the acquisition from Tesco in July, we have been highly impressed by the dedication, loyalty and hard work of Dobbies’ team. With Nicholas at the helm, we feel that Dobbies’ stores will only improve further and we look forward to the forthcoming Spring season."

Marshall will be based in Edinburgh and replaces Cleland, "who has left the business for family and personal reasons".

Marshall added: "I have known and admired the Dobbies’ business for many years, both as a competitor and indeed as a customer.

"I’m really looking forward to working with what I know to be a talented and committed group and I am certain we can achieve great success together for all our customers. James Barnes and the team built a great business; I am keen we take it forward in the same spirit."

Cleland confirmed Dobbies business strategy at Horticulture Week's Garden Retail Summit event last week.

Marshall founded Country Gardens in 1984, which he sold in 2000 to Wyevale for £108m, the subsequently founded Country Homes & Gardens. From 2008-12 he was chief executive of Wyevale - later renamed Garden Centre Group.

See more in next edition of Horticulture Week.

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