Ellis Whittam hits acquisition trail following multi-million pound investment from LDC

Ellis Whittam, the Chester-based business services firm, has secured a significant investment from mid-market private equity investor LDC to accelerate organic growth and to fund future acquisitions.

The business, which provides advisory and fully-outsourced employment law, HR and health & safety services, was founded in 2004 by solicitor Mark Ellis. It supports more than 10,000 UK employers, including Pure Gym, Culina Logistics, Red Letter Days, The Chartered Management Institute, The Chartered Quality Institute and Toni & Guy.

For the financial year ending April 2016, Ellis Whittam generated sales of over £11million and profits (EBITDA) of over £3million. It currently employs 165 staff from its headquarters in Aldford, near Chester, including fully-qualified solicitors as employment law advisors and professionally qualified health and safety consultants, and over the next four years expects to create up to 100 new jobs.

The business has grown successfully under the leadership of Ellis as Chairman and Deven Thakrar as CEO for the last seven years. This deal, in which LDC takes a minority stake, sees Ellis continue to lead the business and remain as a major shareholder as he steps into the role of CEO. Having achieved his objectives to lead the business to this investment, Thakrar has decided to take this opportunity to leave EW, after a period of handover, to devote his time to his other business interests.

Ellis said: “Over the past decade we have supported countless businesses, associations, schools, colleges, charities and local councils in meeting their legal obligations as employers and supporting the wellbeing of their staff, which has allowed owners and managers to focus on their core business activities.

“In LDC we’re confident we have the right partner to deliver the next phase of our journey, as the team fully understands our vision to be the UK’s best fixed-fee professional support business. We have a shared ambition and the partnership will help us to bring our expertise to many more management teams throughout the UK.”

The transaction was led by investment director Richard Ibbett and director and co-head of LDC in the North West Johnny Bell, who will both join the board of the business.

Ibbett added: “People remain at the heart of all employers and organisations are increasingly looking externally for specialist HR and health & safety support that can reduce overheads, but also better manage their legal, people and safety agenda. Since Mark founded the company, Ellis Whittam has built an offering that delivers just that and has become an integrated and critical support function for thousands of employers. We look forward to working with the team as it eyes new opportunities to expand.”

Robert Morgan has also joined the board as chairman. Morgan has more than 20 years’ experience working with private equity-backed businesses and supporting the health & safety and compliance industry. He is former chief executive and executive director of Hays plc, then a leading FTSE 50 services group. Experienced retail banking professional Colin Kemp has also been appointed as a non-executive director, further strengthening the senior management team. Kemp is a non-executive director at Rightmove plc and formerly managing director of Telephone Banking at Lloyds Banking Group and commercial director at Halifax Bank.