One of the region’s best-known industrialists says despite globalisation, technological progress and two recessions little has changed in 20 years at the helm of his investment company.
David Grove OBE is celebrating two decades of operation for Grove Industries, which have seen it grow to effectively control businesses with more than 1,500 employees turning over more than £300 million.
Since its formation in 1991, the firm has carried out a series of management driven buy-outs, buy-ins, turnarounds, and corporate recoveries, predominantly in manufacturing businesses.
Mr Grove said he doesn’t think unquoted businesses receive enough plaudits for battling through the economic downturn and playing a vital part in recovery.
He said: “I wouldn’t say the world has changed too much over 20 years.
‘‘We probably just about had the internet and my mobile phone was the size of a brick – now it is the size of three fingers – but that doesn’t change business, it just brings different pressures and management is about dealing with those issues.
“We don’t have many talking shops. We just get on with life,’’ Mr Grove said.
‘‘If things go wrong then out of adversity commeth opportunity.”
He added: “In the last 12 months probably half of our businesses have recorded record profits.
“The businesses supplying the automotive sector in late-2008 and early-2009 had a horrendous time – Honda, which was one of our customers, closed for months – but in 2010 demand has been pretty good.”
Grove Industries was formed when Mr Grove led his first management buy-in with financial backing provided by Close Brothers private equity.
Eight years later Grove Industries took over Close Brothers. Mr Grove is now joined in the investment team by directors Trevor Middleton and Les Litwinowicz.
Its portfolio includes Akros, Bearmach, Camvac, Covpress, Davicon, GI Solutions, Key Technologies, Total Polyfilm and VIP Polymers. Among the industries the investment firm is involved with are metal pressings, rubber moulding, food packaging, chemicals, defence aerospace and homeland security.
Mr Grove said the company has had success through remaining nimble but investing.
He said: “The management have got equity stakes in the business and we want to keep hold of them for a long time.
“We invest in the businesses to buy new machinery and build them up organically and through acquisition.
“If you add up all of the companies there are 1,500 employees and a turnover approaching £30 million.”
He added: “When management have got an equity stake they are perhaps a bit more nimble and creative than in a multinational or large corporation.
“The small, niche areas pay for us whereas with larger corporations they are probably too big to bother about them.”
Mr Grove said he remained on the lookout for businesses to invest in, as firms continue to struggle for bank finance.