Sir Tom Hunter expands empire with £15m buyout of Sanders GardenWorld

Sir Tom Hunter, whose investment vehicle West Coast Capital (WCC) owns Wyevale Garden Centres, has bought Sanders GardenWorld in Somerset for £15m.

Hunter is set to spend £35m more on two more centres in the next month, in a bid to hit back at Tesco, which took over Dobbies Garden Centres — a target of Hunter’s — last month. The Sanders site, previously owned by Chris and Mike Sanders and Michelle and Kerry Michael, turns over £8m a year and was built in 2000/01. It will now take up planning permission for a £3m expansion. This was previously delayed because of the cost of council requirements to build a roundabout. The nearest Wyevale sites are Thornley and Taunton. Sanders manager Peter Burks said: “I think it’s a good thing. We’ve been treading water for the past couple of years but now Wyevale has come along so I’m pleased from a business point of view.” He added that he expects sales to rise by one third when the site doubles to 5,000sq m. He added that it will be “business as usual” until then for the 150 staff. WCC bought Wyevale in 2006 for £445m and has since added the Blooms chain and Bridgemere Garden World to the empire. It is now believed to be bidding for every large garden centre in the country. It is set to buy one southern centre costing more than £20m and one northern centre in September. The buying consortium is bank HBOS, Icelandic investor Baugur and Prestbury property investors. Horticulture Week predicted the purchases (HW, 16 August), which are expected to add £25m to group sales as well as provide a significant bank of land that can be used for future development. Quinton Edwards boss Simon Quniton Smith conducted the deal. He said: “You will now see the market polarising. Tesco is going to have to get its act together.” Hammond Phillips director Mike Gilbert said the right sellers could achieve “full value” with the current interest in the market.

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