MCMILLAN WILLIAMS SOLICITORS
McMillan Williams Solicitors, a consumer focused high street law firm, is set to expand following investment from BGF.
BGF invested £5m of equity finance in McMillan Williams in February 2015 for a minority stake in the company.
Founded in 1983, the law practice has grown from several high street branches, predominantly in and around south London and the South East, to 18 today. McMillan Williams services clients throughout South, West and Central London, Kent, Sussex, and Devon. Revenues have increased nearly 70 per cent over the past three years and the business is on track to turnover £18m in the year ending April 2015.
McMillan Williams operates a number of practice areas in the consumer legal services sector including conveyancing, personal injury and family law.
BGF’s investment is funding the opening of a further eight offices in London and the South East over the next two years and the recruitment of approximately 75 new solicitors and additional legal staff across the firm. Further opportunities for growth include the recruitment of high quality legal professionals and the possibility of moving into new legal areas as the business scales. Other practice areas that have already been identified include commercial conveyancing, mental health, financial claims on divorce and civil litigation.
McMillan Williams is led by founding Partner John McMillan, CEO Colum Smith and 20 other partners.
The UK legal services market has grown at 4.7 per cent between 2009-2013, with an anticipated growth rate of 3 per cent for the next 5 years, driving the total market to a value of £38bn by 2018. (Source: Data Monitor Legal Services in the UK, April 2014.)
Cass Art opens in Scotland
Cass Art, the UK’s leading independent art supplies retailer, has opened its first store in Scotland following BGF’s £3.2m investment to support its nationwide growth. The store is located in the heart of Glasgow, which is internationally recognised as a creative city that has produced many world-acclaimed artists.
Founded in 1984 by CEO Mark Cass, an avid art promoter and entrepreneur, Cass Art strives to encourage as many people as possible to create art, believing that art is a fundamental human need and that art over the centuries has profoundly changed the way we view the world.
Mark Cass is a trustee of the Cass Sculpture Foundation, a British charity devoted to the promotion of 21st British sculpture through public commissions and exhibitions. His family have been involved in art over many generations – his great uncle, Paul Cassirer, was an important art dealer in the 1920s, and was a promoter of the Impressionist movement in Europe.
The new site on Queen Street boasts more than 6,000 square feet, and includes the Art Space that will endeavour to support and celebrate the local artist community through workshops and exhibitions. In preparation for its launch, Cass Art was proud to sponsor this year’s Graduate Degree Show at the Glasgow School of Art – one of Europe’s leading university-level institutions for the visual creative disciplines.
CEO and Founder Mark Cass opened his first shop next to the National Gallery, and Cass Art currently has five shops in London and one in Kingston. Cass Art offers the world’s best art materials at the UK’s best prices. All Cass Art shop staff are artists, giving expert insight and advice on all of its customers’ creative endeavours.
“We are thrilled to be opening in Glasgow”, says Mark Cass, CEO and Founder of Cass Art. “It is a city with a long cultural history, and a thriving art community. We look forward to supporting artists of all ages in Glasgow, whether they are beginners, students, tutors or professionals – to fulfil our mission, ‘Let’s Fill This Nation With Artists’. It is our first step in opening affordable art shops across the country.”
BGF backed the Cass Art team to roll out new stores in major cities across the UK over the next five years and to develop its e-commerce platform (www.cassart.co.uk), which presents a significant opportunity to grow on a national scale.
As well as BGF Investment Director Rory Pope sitting on the board, BGF appointed Stuart Rose, the former Chairman of toy group Hamleys, ex-Managing Director and deputy Chairman of The Body Shop and former Chairman of Agent Provocateur as Non-Executive Chairman through its Talent Network.
Rory Pope, Investment Director for BGF commented:
“Mark Cass and his team have created a truly inspiring business based on an ‘art for all’ passion and they remain committed to encouraging everyone to realise their creative talents. By extending Cass Art’s regional footprint and continuing to offer the world’s leading material at the best prices, they are set to achieve their ambition and BGF is proud to be part of that mission.”
In December 2013 BGF invested £3.2m for a minority stake in Cass Art, one of the UK’s leading independent art materials retailers. This was BGF’s 11th investment in London and the South East.
Founded in 2001 by CEO Mark Cass, an avid art promoter and entrepreneur, Cass Art strives to encourage as many people as possible to create art, believing that art is a fundamental human need, with an emphasis on nurturing talent, expression and art as freedom.
Cass Art’s first store was on Kensington High Street. Since then the company has expanded and now has six stores across London in Hampstead, Charing Cross, Kingston, Soho and its flagship store in Islington. The company now also has a national presence with stores in Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow.
The business and brand has grown from strength to strength over the past five years and now employs over 130 staff. BGF backed the Cass Art team to roll out new stores in major cities across the UK and to develop its e-commerce platform (www.cassart.co.uk) which presents a significant opportunity to grow on a national scale.
Since BGF invested, Cass has opened three stores and significantly increased its e-commerce operations.
Cass Art attracts a wider and younger range of customers than traditional art stores by making art accessible with its high street locations, workshops and relative affordability.
Typical customers include a mixture of beginners, hobbyists, art students, vocational artists and professional artists, as well as children through the launch in 2009 of the award-winning Cass Art Kids range of products.
Management have also established many partnerships with London’s cultural institutions and art universities, including the National Gallery, the Royal Academy of Arts, the Royal College of Art, Design Museum and the Institute for Contemporary Arts, all of which are heritage institutions looking to appeal to a younger audience well-represented by Cass Art’s customer base.
The UK art materials market is highly fragmented with a handful of retailers accounting for just over a quarter of sales. Approximately 10% or 180,000 of all UK university students are enrolled in an Arts course with enrolment growing by 25% between 2004 and 2010. The market’s fragmentation and growing customer base both offer considerable opportunity for Cass Art to professionalise the UK market.
Mark Cass has been an avid art promoter and entrepreneur throughout his business career firstly as Managing Director of Craftsmith which his family bought from WH Smith in 1979. This was the largest arts and crafts retailer in the UK and was sold in 1984.
In 1979 Mark and his father Wilfred Cass OBE co-founded the Image Bank UK, the world’s largest film and stock photography library which was sold to Getty images in 2000. In 2001, he turned his attention to creating Cass Art, expanding the Company to six stores today.
Stuart Rose, the former Chairman of toy group Hamleys, ex-Managing Director and deputy Chairman of The Body Shop and former Chairman of Agent provocateur joined the Cass Art board as Non-Executive Chairman. This appointment was made by BGF through its Talent Network.
BGF was introduced to Cass Art by the company’s bankers Barclays.
Founded in 2006 by ex-rugby player and experienced industry operator Jon Wright, award-winning Xercise4Less, one of the UK’s leading low-cost gym chains currently has around 250,000 members and a successful chain of existing gym sites, predominantly located across the North of England but with a growing footprint of sites across the country.
As a result of its organic roll-out, Xercise4Less now operates 35 gyms, employs over 600 people and has an increasing national coverage with sites across the north of England, the Midlands, the South West, Scotland and Wales, and has opened its first gym inside the M25 in August 2015, In Hounslow. Further sites are planned in London and the South East.
Uniquely to Xercise4Less, its gyms are typically located at large out-of-town sites with floor sizes of 30,000 square feet or more that offer advantages to customers over traditional city centre budget gyms such as additional space, more gym equipment and a wider variety of choice and plentiful parking.
The budget gym sector has increased the size of the UK private fitness market by around nine percent since 2011, with one in 12 people owning a gym membership. Compared to the industry average for budget gym chains, Xercise4Less’s members are twice as likely to keep their membership longer than 12 months.
BGF originally backed Xercise4Less in August 2013, with a £5m investment to provide the business with capital needed to support management’s 5-year plan, which included the rollout of new gyms nationwide. A new growth capital injection of £7.6m in 2016, in addition to further funding provided in 2014, takes BGF’s total investment to £19.7m.
Since BGF’s original investment, the Leeds-headquartered business has opened 23 new gyms. Total sales grew to £21.9m in the 12 months to July 2015, up from £12m in its previous financial year.
Erin joined BGF before its launch in March 2011 to help establish the BGF investment process and strategy. She is responsible for the origination, appraisal and completion of new investment opportunities in London and the South East.
Erin has 8 years’ investment experience and has led investments into 15 small and medium-sized companies. Her experience was initially gained at Barclays Ventures where she was an Investment Director responsible for a portfolio of SMEs across a range of sectors including business services, consumer goods, industrials and technology. Previously, Erin managed a portfolio in health and medical research for The Siragusa Foundation and worked for BearingPoint (fka KPMG Consulting), principally advising technology, wireless telecommunications and energy clients on M&A and strategy.
Erin holds an MBA from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business. She also holds a post-Baccalaureate degree in Economics from the London School of Economics and a BA in International Studies from the University of Washington. In addition to trying to support the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Huskies from overseas, Erin is a keen runner and Pilates enthusiast.
“My role gives me the opportunity to meet with a number of exciting and innovate businesses and entrepreneurs. Buts it’s the entrepreneurs who have to give you permission to do this job.”
Benefex appoints new Chairman
Benefex, a leading provider of online employee reward and benefit schemes, has announced the appointment of Steve Bellamy as its Chairman. Steve will replace the current Chairman Peter Waller who in turn will become Executive Director in order to continue assisting with the growth of the business and managing on-going client relationships.
Steve’s extensive experience in assisting high growth companies, predominantly in the IT sector, will help Benefex to deliver its strategic objectives as it moves to develop its service offering, build upon its impressive client base and extend its international presence.
Benefex operates in a high growth sector, enabling large organisations to tailor their rewards and benefit packages to individual employees, communicate effectively online with staff, and outsource administration and support of their schemes. As one of the largest online employee reward and benefits providers in the UK, Benefex currently provides services to over 500 clients, managing online benefits schemes for over 1 million employees in more than 40 countries. Its clients include the AA, Coca Cola, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, De Beers, E.ON, Philips, MTV and Centrica. It operates from its head office in Southampton, with a further presence in Marlow and London.
Steve has over 25 years’ experience in both managing and investing in high growth businesses. He has held a number of other Chairman, Non-executive and advisory roles, mostly in the technology industry. He is currently Chairman of Becrypt Limited, a cyber-security technology specialist, a Non-executive Director of Advanced Medical Solutions Group plc, a UK quoted global medical technology company and CEO of Accretion Capital LLP, a specialist European technology fund management business launched to capitalise on emerging technology opportunities in Europe.
Steve has also held a number of executive roles in his career, including Chief Operating Officer and Finance Director for Sherwood International plc, a UK listed global technology business focused on the Insurance industry and UK Central Government. Prior to joining Sherwood, Steve was a UK Investment Director of Brierley Investments, a global investor in undervalued quoted companies and before that worked at Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC) in New Zealand and New York. He trained as a Chartered Accountant in New Zealand.
Steve was introduced to Benefex by Business Growth Fund (BGF), a company established to help Britain’s fast growing smaller and medium sized businesses by providing long-term equity investment. In October 2011, BGF marked its first deal when it invested £4.2m of growth capital in Benefex. As part of its investment offering, BGF seeks to contribute guidance and operational support to its investee companies and identified Steve as a highly regarded individual who would be a significant addition to Benefex’s Board.
Matt Waller, the CEO of Benefex commented:
“I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Steve as our new Chairman. As a result of BGF’s investment and our own excellent reputation within our industry, we have secured a first rate Chairman and we look forward to making the most of Steve’s extensive experience of high growth, exciting and entrepreneurial IT companies going forward. It is exciting to have Steve on board whilst retaining Peter, who will remain actively involved in the business in sales and client management. It’s the best of both worlds!”
Steve Bellamy commented:
“Benefex is exactly the type of business that I enjoy working with and also the sort of company that will help drive the UK economy forward. It was a start-up just eight years ago and is now one of the UK’s largest online employee reward and benefits providers with an exemplary client list and range of products and services. I look forward to working with Matt Waller and the rest of the management team to maintain Benefex’s impressive growth path.”