Luke Johnson purchases online garden centre retailer Primrose

Entrepreneur Luke Johnson’s private equity firm, Risk Capital Partners, has purchased online garden centre retailer, primrose.co.uk, from parent company, Meika Ltd. There is no external bank debt and Primrose will continue to trade as normal.

Seeing how Brits have been bitten by the gardening bug during lockdown, the acquisition of Primrose is Mr Johnson’s first since buying bowling group, All Star Lanes, which ran into difficulties due to coronavirus restrictions.

This latest deal involves a pre-pack administration of Meika, with its operating subsidiary sold as a going concern.

The deal will bring new investment which will enable Primrose to “further capitalise on the significant growth the company is experiencing at present, following the launch of its new plant and garden product categories and the general growth in online sales”.

Launched in 2003 from a base in Reading, Primrose now has 20 million registered customers in the UK and Europe. The company sold a majority stake to Rockpool Investments, a private equity firm, in 2018.

Sales have been strong this year, with physical garden centres forced to close during one of their peak trading periods in Spring. It is therefore unclear why insolvency became a necessary process for the retailer. Sources informed Sky News that the pre-pack had been undertaken by FRP Advisory after Cavendish Corporate Finance was appointed during the summer to run a sale process for Primrose.

Risk Capital is also an investor in the parent company of Gail’s bakery chain. Earlier this year it sold off swimwear brand, Zoggs. A former chairman of Channel 4 and currently a columnist for the Sunday Times, Mr Johnson was previously rocked by a huge fraud scandal at Patisserie Valerie’s parent company in 2019.

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2 thoughts on “Luke Johnson purchases online garden centre retailer Primrose”

  1. Massively profitable up to 2018. Private equity firm takes over. Insolvent 2 years later?
    Lessons to be drawn – and now bought up by Luke Johnson who failed to spot £34million hole in Patisserie Valerie accounts?
    What could possibly go wrong?

    1. Hi Jules, yes it does sound as if there might be wiggle room for a ‘situation’ to develop here, it’ll be interesting to see how things pan out, although on the face of it Primrose seems to have a good business model, selling the right sort of products at the right time via the right channel. I’ll be watching this space to see what happens next!

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