Andrew Cohen, aged 60, and his family can claim credit for making Castle Vale-based Betterware one of the UK’s most successful home shopping operations.
Andrew Cohen is running Betterware for the third time. He bought the household products empire in 1983, floated it for £30 million in 1986, sold it to its management for £42.7 million in 1997 and came back as non-executive chairman in 2002. Proceeds from the sale of his half-share were believed to be around £50 million. As well as the Betterware empire he has other property interests and racehorses to add to his family’s wealth.
Betterware began life in the 1920s. Best known for its kitchenware and cleaning products the company now has more 5,000 distributors for its products and operates from a purpose-built warehousing complex in Park Lane, Castle Vale.
Andrew Cohen has trade in his blood. After six months hawking stretch covers around Scotland for his father’s soft furnishings company he was convinced he could do better than many of his customers.
So he persuaded his father to back him in building a chain of soft furnishing retailers. At 18, he opened his first outlet in Edgware Road, London, and in four years had 22 shops.
He built up subsequent acquisitions such as the Birmingham-based Wooltons chain into his own soft furnishings empire, but in May 1983 his father announced that he was going to check out a company called Betterware, in Romford, Essex, which had gone into receivership.
Andrew Cohen followed his father to Romford to look at the company. What he discovered was an inefficient manufacturing operation with a superb brand. Everyone over 50, it seemed, knew the Betterware name.
He promptly bought the company for £253,000 and within weeks had moved it to Birmingham. Then he closed down the tooling operation, contracted out production and computerised ordering. By the end of the year, turnover had reached £1 million, with profits of £125,000 – half the company’s purchase price.
Betterware now handles around five million customer orders every year. Its past success has helped Andrew Cohen indulge his two passions of horse racing and collecting rare film posters. When he put his vintage poster for Fritz Lang’s movie Metropolis up for sale at the Reel Poster Gallery in London’s Notting Hill it famously fetched nearly £400,000.
In the world of racing Andrew Cohen is probably best known as the owner of Grand National stalwart Suny Bay. The popular grey chaser won the Hennessey Gold Cup in 1997 by 13 lengths, and finished second in the Grand National twice. Suny Bay died in 2011, aged 22.