Europe’s largest turkey producer, Bernard Matthews, has been acquired by the private investment vehicle of Ranjit Singh Boparan, the chief executive of the UK’s 2 Sisters Food Group.
The vehicle, known as Boparan Private Office, said the acquisition from private-equity firm Rutland Partners was completed yesterday evening (20 September), “securing 2,000 jobs” at Bernard Matthews in Norfolk and Suffolk, which has been looking for potential buyers since June.
2 Sisters tweeted it itself had not acquired Bernard Matthews – underlining Ranjit Singh Boparan himself headed up the deal, similar to one announced earlier this year for Boparan to acquire Ireland’s Grove Farm.
— 2 Sisters Food Group (@2SFGofficial) September 20, 2016
The spokesperson for Boparan Private Office said the acquisition of Bernard Matthews, for an undisclosed sum, would “create a strong platform for future growth and ensures Bernard Matthews is well positioned to develop into a sustainable, growing business”.
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The spokesperson said: “We intend to respect and build on the 66-year heritage of a much-loved British brand and crucially help to deliver Christmas 2016, which would have been at risk without our intervention.”
Boparan Private Office has “a proven track record in turning around businesses and we aim to make Bernard Matthews great again”, the spokesperson added. “This deal is ultimately good news for UK consumers and our customers, who will benefit from a secure supply of British turkey from one of the most recognisable brands in the UK.”
The UK’s biggest trade union, Unite, gave the deal a “cautious welcome”. However, a spokesperson said Unite was “seeking clarification on future employment, pay, and terms and conditions under the new ownership”.
Talks between union leaders and the Bernard Matthews’ management team are due to be held in Norfolk today. Unite regional officer Steve Harley said the union had “searching questions” on future employment, pay, and terms and conditions.
“We will also be asking about the status of the pension scheme under the new owners, although it is expected that our members won’t be affected in this respect by the takeover,” Harley said. “Bernard Matthews is a major employer in East Anglia and the union wants to work constructively with the new ownership to ensure the continuing success of this iconic company.”
The statement from Boparan Private Office to announce the acquisition did not include any information about the future of pensions at Bernard Matthews.
The UK’s pensions regulator told just-food yesterday that it was “in contact” with trustees of the Bernard Matthews pension fund, after a senior British MP called for a probe into the sale and the potential impact on pensions.
In July, Bernard Matthews said it had exchanged contracts to sell its German subsidiary, Bernard Matthews Oldenburg, to Germany’s Sprehe Gruppe. Bernard Matthews said the proceeds from the sale would reduce group debt by EUR14m (US$15.5m).