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Rowan International

About Rowan

Rowan International ('Rowan') is Europe’s largest branded stock re-seller to the discount market, purchasing surplus stock of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and then re-selling to leading national and international discount retailers.

Rowan was founded 30 years ago and now has strong relationships with many of the leading industry brands, including Johnson & Johnson, Unilever and Procter & Gamble.

What attracted us to Rowan?

  • Backing experienced management team supplemented with highly experienced NXC

  • Clearly defined opportunity to expand purchasing relationships with European brand owners

  • Cash generative business where investor loan notes were effectively asset backed due to low entry multiple

  • Sales of £50m

The private equity transaction
In December 2017 we completed a £5m private equity investment in this UK SME to back a management buy-out.

The deal will enable Rowan’s strong and dedicated management team to accelerate the development and growth of the business, for example by expanding its supplier relationships across Europe and increasing its focus on higher-margin goods.

Background to the deal

  • The three founding shareholders, two of them aged over 70, were looking to retire and realise their shareholdings

  • Management, led by John Place, had been running the business for over a year and were looking to take an equity position and grow the business

Connection Capital private equity deal team
Pascal Wittet

John Place, CEO, Rowan International

About the CEO
John has always had a passion for retail. While at university he decided it was his vocation, and seized the opportunity to work for supermarkets such as Somerfield and Kwiksave, working his way up from the bottom as a buyer via Pepsi and Tesco.
His move to Rowan gave him access to a new segment of the market, and he has relished having more responsibility to make a bigger difference in a smaller company. As CEO, he sees real opportunity to raise the bar in his marketplace, developing customer and supplier relationships in what has traditionally been a purely transactional business area.

He is motivated by the desire to inspire and get the best from his positive and energetic team, and to overcome the challenge of growing the business while simultaneously trying to change and improve upon it, driving efficiencies, changing the culture and honing systems and processes. As he puts it: “We need to keep the short term day-to-day operations going while building a long term plan – and all the time continuing to question how we do things in order to be the best in our marketplace.”

First job: John took a range of temporary jobs with retailers to get access to internal vacancies and soon landed his dream job as an assistant trainee buyer

What advice would you give businesses seeking equity funding?

If you think there’s an opportunity there, go for it. There are plenty of knowledgeable advisers out there to help you: if you don’t know the answer, there will be people to ask.

How has Connection Capital helped you?

Aside from the financials, we now have access to experience and expert advice we wouldn’t otherwise have had in the form of the Connection Capital team, and the new Chairman they introduced us to, who has had senior roles at Asda, Sainsbury’s and Somerfield. As this is my first CEO position, it’s incredible to have more people I can lean on, who know what they are talking about and who are there to support us.

Why did you choose Connection Capital?

We presented to a number of investors but they were our preferred choice. From the first few minutes we met them, we felt their approach was balanced and genuinely interested in the long term future of our business. Their model of how they invest also worked with our outlook.

Investment Highlights
Date of Investment
December 2017
Discounted re-seller of FMCG brands
Investment type
CC Investment
Woolverstone House,
61-62 Berners Street,
London, W1T 3NJ, United Kingdom
020 3696 4010