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Managing Partner John Moulton speaking to the press
"It will be up to us to generate confidence in buyers"
 real 28k

Friday, 28 April, 2000, 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK
Alchemy shies away from Rover risk

Alchemy is set to gain control of Rover 75 car production
Two months ago, Alchemy Partners was practically unheard of.

The UK's second-largest venture capital fund has a reputation for picking up companies in trouble and turning them around, but few outside the business world knew of its existance until it bid for Rover.

It has since either been vilified as the company who didn't care about Rover workers or their jobs or hailed as the troubled car maker's last chance.

The company originally saw a future for Rover as a maker of MG sports cars but backed down when it feared that the heavy cost of redundancies would scupper its chances of turning a profit.

Hunting dogs

With no experience of the motor trade, it appeared to be an incongruous bidder for the company.

Alchemy Partners
Founded in 1997
Managing partner: Jon Moulton
1998 investment totalled 234m
Took over jeweller Goldsmiths
Bought Fads DIY store from Boots
But the challenge of Rover appealed to a company whose partners like to refer to themselves as a "pack of hunting dogs".

"We welcome complex transactions and turnarounds. We are not dissuaded by difficulty - rather we see it as an opportunity," the group declares on its website.

Alchemy has typically specialised in fast-food restaurants and pubs.

While it was the first motoring deal Alchemy had attempted, this did not shake the confidence of managing partner Jon Moulton, previously chairman of Brands Hatch motor racing track and a man who claims to have created 200 millionaires

Mr Moulton, together with partner Eric Walters and Alchemy advisory board member Chris Woodwark, spearheaded the bid.

Alchemy's reputation centres on its ability to pick up companies in difficulty and turn them round.

Mr Moulton takes the credit for turning Parker Pens into a profit-making company. It went from losing 20m a year to making 40m profit in just seven years.

With this deal, he established a reputation for ruthlessness. One of his first acts on the morning of completing the deal was to close down Parker's world headquarters in the US, cutting 120 jobs.

He is also willing to tackle deals that other financiers wouldn't touch.

In September 1997, he handed over a nominal 1 to Boots for their loss-making Fads and Homestyle DIY shops.
Boots shop
Alchemy bought Boots' DIY outlets in 1997
The company gave him more than 7m to take on the 300 stores, which had lost them 33m in the previous three years.

He obtained 57m worth of assets and gave himself three years to turn the company around and float it on the stock market or sell it on at a profit.

Alchemy's achievements are all the more impressive when it is taken into account that it has only five partners in London and one in Frankfurt. In 1998, the group invested 234m in 21 deals, placing it second only to 3i in the British private equity league tables.

It has put together 47 transactions with 34 companies since it was set up in January 1997.

US investment giant Goldman Sachs is said to be one of its main backers.

Others include Chase Capital Partners as well as major pension funds such as that of British Aerospace.

Even with this experience, Rover would have been its biggest challenge and ultimately one it decided wasn't worth the risk.

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See also:

16 Mar 00 | Business
BMW's 'English Patient'
15 Mar 00 | Business
Nice cars, shame about the name
16 Mar 00 | Business
BMW set to sell Rover
16 Mar 00 | Business
Pulling the strings at BMW
15 Mar 00 | Business
The Rover breakdown
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