Employees buy Sutcliffe Play

A West Yorkshire-based play firm has joined the ranks of companies including John Lewis and Arup after its employees bought the business for £1.3m.

Sutcliffe Play is now owned by its employees, with around 70 per cent of them having bought shares in the firm.

Its chairman, Robin Sutcliffe, will remain at the firm until his 70th birthday in three years' time, but has handed ownership to his staff.He said the buyout had been a "dream for almost 50 years".

Five members of staff, including managing director Viv Jebson, led the move as a formal purchaser, supported by specialist funders Baxi Partnership, Co-operative & Community Finance, Barclays and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

"The majority of the firm is now held in an employee benefit trust," explained Jebson. The move has meant that at least 51 per cent of company shares must be held in trust."It means the firm can't easily be sold to a competitor," Jebson pointed out. "That is good for job security."

Jebson admitted there was a risk that shares could lose value, but added that no one knew the business as well as the employees.

She explained that as well as work from the Government's Playbuilder and Pathfinder schemes, Sutcliffe Play had big export plans.

"We took on a new international development manager a year ago and he is focusing on the Middle East because there is a lot of work out there," she said.

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