Truell consortium flips Threshers to Vision

A consortium led by Edmund Truell has sold the operating businesses of UK retailers Threshers and BrightHouse to secondaries specialist Vision Capital, just two weeks after buying them. The £265 million sale will leave the consortium in control of the companies’ pension fund assets.

A consortium led by Edmund Truell has sold on a 75 percent stake in UK off-licence Threshers and its entire holding in UK domestic goods retailer BrightHouse to secondaries specialist Vision Capital, just two weeks after buying them from Terra Firma.

The price was undisclosed but two sources close to the deal said Vision Capital had paid about £265 million (€392 million; $523 million) for the two businesses.

The ‘quick-flip’ deal allows Truell, the co-founder of UK buyout firm Duke Street Capital, to divest the operating businesses of the two companies while retaining control of their pension fund assets for his new venture, the Pension Insurance Corporation.

A source close to the deal said: “The companies were sold quickly because the ultimate objective for the consortium was to get hold of pension schemes.” To fulfil this aim, the consortium had acquired a number of miscellaneous assets from Terra Firma, including businesses such as Threshers that were not wildly attractive to other buyers, he added.

Another deal source said BrightHouse was sold for a larger sum than Threshers, meaning that the off-licence is now valued at less than £132.5 million – at least £90 million less than the £225 million Guy Hands paid for the company when he worked for Japanese bank Nomura.

However, a person close to Terra Firma told PEO that the firm nevertheless made a profit from the sale of Threshers. The buyout group reportedly generated £200 million from a sale and leaseback of Threshers’ commercial property in April.

Julian Mash, chief executive of Vision Capital, said: “Threshers has not been a stellar performer, but with fresh eyes and new capital the company has an exciting future and we have some interesting ideas to take it forward.” 

Truell’s consortium – which comprised a number of investors from his latest venture including the Royal Bank of Scotland, Coller Capital, and a number of unspecified blue chip companies – paid an undisclosed sum to buy a number of assets from Terra Firma a fortnight ago. In addition to Threshers and BrightHouse, these also included hotel video-on-demand provider Quadriga and Carmelite Capital, the parent of lighting company Thorn’s pension scheme.

Truell’s consortium has now secured the £85 million Threshers pension fund.  It will also restructure the £1.2 billion Thorn pension fund, as well as running the pension assets of Quadriga and BrightHouse.
Although the Pension Insurance Corporation’s principal business is providing pension insurance, in this case it will be managing the funds. It will use £32 million of proceeds from the deal to meet Threshers’ pension liabilities, as the fund was previously in deficit.

Vision Capital plans to grow BrightHouse with its management led by Leo McKee, chief executive. The consortium will retain Quadriga for the foreseeable future. 

Truell founded the Pension Insurance Corporation last year. He revealed last month he had wound down his stake in Duke Street Capital to concentrate on the pension insurer.