Devon paddleboard firm sold after seeing sales hit £20m

A £20m-turnover Devon paddleboard business that sells products worldwide has been sold to an investment company.

Growth equity investor Gresham House Ventures has sold its stake in Vian Marketing, the holding company of leading paddleboard brand Red Paddle Co.

The Totnes-based business, which has annual sales of more than £20m, sells through the brands Red Paddle Co stand up paddle boards, Red Original outdoor apparel and Tushingham Sails, a water sports equipment manufacturer and distributor.

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The Red Paddle Co entrepreneurial management team will continue to lead the business post transaction. The business, which was held in the Mobeus VCTs (venture capital trusts) listed on the stock exchange, is being sold to the investment company Myers Family Office.

The Mobeus VCTs fully realised their investment on completion of the sale, generating a money multiple of almost five times. The Mobeus VCTs invested £4m in 2015 to fund an equity release for the founders and later supported the management buy-out of the business by the current chief executive and founder of the Red Paddle Co brand John Hibbard, as well as finance director Helen Shears.

The business has delivered strong growth, driven by the globally-renowned Red Paddle Co brand and has almost doubled its revenue and almost trebled its EBITDA since the original investment. Its premium quality products are now sold in more than 60 countries via its website, retailers and distributors.

The stand-up paddleboard market has taken off in recent years, becoming even more popular throughout the Covid pandemic with the increased focus on outdoor activities. Red Paddle Co’s equipment is now carried by a number of mainstream retailers, including John Lewis & Partners.

Clive Austin, managing director, VCT portfolio at Gresham House Ventures, said: “Our investment in Vian Marketing supported the transition from founder management and the continued development of the Red Paddle Co and Red Original brands, helping to cement Red Paddle Co’s position as the leading premium brand in the stand-up paddleboard market globally. “It has been a pleasure working with the original founders and the current team, and we are excited to see how the business continues to develop in partnership with the Myers Family Office.”

John Hibbard, Vian Marketing chief and founder of Red Paddle Co, said: “Gresham House Ventures and the Mobeus VCTs have been a pleasure to work with and the perfect partners over the last few years. “Thanks to Clive and the wider team for having the confidence to back us in the management buy-out and the ongoing belief in the brand and product.”

The South West-based Grant Thornton team advising the shareholders on the transaction included Nick Jones, Anna Davies and the firm’s head of consumer brands M&A, Nicola Sartori.

The Vian Marketing team were also able to draw on the technical expertise of Grant Thornton’s SPA advisory team, led by Patrick O’Brien.

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Mr Jones said: “Red Paddle Co is widely recognised as the leading premium paddleboard brand and it’s been hugely impressive to see the continued international expansion as well as the successful development of the outdoor apparel and accessories offering. It is fantastic therefore to complete this transaction whereby John, Helen and the rest of the team remain fully involved going forward and we’re really excited to see them continue to grow this market-leading business.”

The other advisors to the shareholders were Henry Taylor and Francesca Hubbard at Michelmores as well as Clarke Willmott and Bishop Fleming.

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William TelfordBusiness Editor, Plymouth Live