First Choice in Cannock bought by US group

Cannock-based First Choice Group, a leading UK supplier of spare parts for the catering industry, has been bought by a US company. The price-tag on the deal has not been revealed.

Pictured from left are: Jamie Partington of Higgs & Sons, Steve Robbins, John Whitehouse and Carl Bate of First Choice Group, Andy Kay of Crowe Clark Whitehill and Susheel Gupta of Higgs & Sons.
Pictured from left are: Jamie Partington of Higgs & Sons, Steve Robbins, John Whitehouse and Carl Bate of First Choice Group, Andy Kay of Crowe Clark Whitehill and Susheel Gupta of Higgs & Sons.

First Choice Group, based on Swaffield Park, has been operating for 17 years and has grown to employ 140 people in Cannock.

Established in 1999 First Choice Group is the UK's leading one-stop-shop for catering and refrigeration spares. In May the company will relocate its operations to a new multi-million pound state-of-the-art building on Staffordshire's exclusive Kingswood Lakeside site.

Specialists from Brierley Hill-based Higgs & Sons’ corporate legal team along with Crowe Clark Whitehill – accountants based at Oldbury – advised the shareholders of First Choice on the acquisition by PT Holdings, parent company of Chicago-based Parts Town.

PT Holdings is the world's largest distributor of OEM parts for the foodservice industry and says the acquisition will provide First Choice with access to the largest in-stock inventory of OEM parts globally.

The deal will also open up new markets for the First Choice in Europe and potential new partnerships with global brands.

Director John Whitehouse said the decision to sell the business was a difficult one but would benefit First Choice Group staff and customers.

"The acquisition of First Choice Group by Parts Town, a $300-million distribution company, takes us to the next level and will enhance the customer experience," he said.

"It's very exciting. It will grow our business immeasurably and expand our stock and service capabilities to even greater heights. It also opens up the very real possibility of First Choice Group entering new markets, something we've long had the ambition to do."

Fellow First Choicedirector Carl Bate, added: "We've worked ever so hard to achieve our success and the status that comes from that success. Now we can look to the future with real enthusiasm and excitement."

First Choice Group will continue to operate under its existing brand with John Whitehouse as Managing Director and Carl Bate as Director of Procurement and Logistics.

Chief executive officer at PT Holdings, Steve Snower, said: “This partnership further strengthens PT Holding’s market leadership in genuine OEM parts distribution. John, Carl and the whole First Choice team have built an extraordinary business. We respect and appreciate the integrity with which the business is run.”

The Higgs & Sons’ team of advisers was led by Susheel Gupta and Jamie Partington who were supported by the employment, property, commercial, tax and private client teams. They worked alongside Andy Kay, partner from national audit, tax and advisory firm Crowe Clark Whitehill, who provided vital specialist corporate finance input.

John Whitehouse added: "It was a pleasure to work alongside the corporate teams at Higgs & Sons and Crowe. They literally worked around the clock including weekends to get this deal away for us and the quality of the advice they provided and arranged to be provided to us was second to none.”

“We were delighted to have worked alongside the shareholders of First Choice and advised them on this major acquisition by PT Holdings,” said Susheel Gupta.

“As with all deals of this magnitude there were a number of challenges, particularly given its international aspect, but working in partnership with Crowe and our trusted international advisors ensured it was smooth process that fully met the needs of all parties involved.”

Andy Kay, partner at Crowe Clark Whitehill said: “I am absolutely thrilled to be able to conclude this complex transaction. Under Parts Town’s ownership, First Choice is well positioned to continue with its growth plans into the future.”

Chicago based Parts Town was established in 1987 as a restaurant equipment parts distribution business designed to support local field service companies with the parts required to support their customers.

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