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Managers buy out bosses

CORPORATE buyouts are now well within the reach of middle management. As venture capital availability grows, management buyouts are likely to increase.

Jonathan Huston, Tim Thorne, Stephen Wheeler, John Sofarnos and Mike van Drunen have bought out the directors of Worldmark.

Worldmark is the holding company for High Performance Films that operates in Australia and New Zealand as Sol-Ace, Tint-a-Car and High Performance Commercial.

Mr Huston, now managing director of Worldmark, said anyone considering a management buyout should try to keep the chief financial officer.

He said the buyout showed what middle management could do with the aid of venture capital.

“We felt the time was right for the previous directors to exit the business,” Mr Huston said.

“They were already heading towards the succession planning process.”

Mr Sofarnos, now national operations manager for Worldmark, said the group’s initial approach was knocked back.

“They didn’t believe five guys could move in and provide the funds for the buyout,” he said.

Ironically, three of the previous Worldmark directors were involv-ed with the phased management buyout of Solahart in the 1970s.

Mr Huston believes this is the first second-generation management buyout of a business in Australia.

He said the new owners were keen to pursue export and other business opportunities.

“We’re looking to develop electronic commerce opportunities and create incentive programs throughout the business,” Mr Huston said.

Mr Huston said the takeover had been amicable.

“We were coming to work and carrying out our managing directors’ directions while negotiating to buy them out.”

Mr Sofarnos said the group’s advisors Deloittes Corporate Advisory Services handled the ‘negative’ issues.

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