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A Newcastle maintenance firm which has rapidly grown under the stewardship of North East Business Executive of the Year winner Jim Johnson has been acquired in a multi-million pound deal.

Litterboss was first set up by a husband and wife team in the 1980s before it was snapped up in a £2m deal in 2001 by former Stadium Group director Jim Johnson and his family.

Within seven years the firm had added interior cleaning contracts to exterior maintenance, with the acquisition of North Shields company Bettakleen, and was carrying out winter gritting services at more than 1,100 sites across the UK at retail, leisure and business parks, industrial sites and shopping centres.

Now, having built up the business to a £14m operation with clients including Royal Mail, Sainsbury’s and Sanderson Weatherall, the firm has been sold to Essex-based Ground Control to create the biggest business of its kind in the UK.

Ahead of its acquisition, LitterBoss had more than 3,500 locations on its books benefitting from its winter maintenance services, landscaping, interior cleaning and exterior maintenance. The combined business will now have more than 8,000 sites covered.

Ground Control, which serves blue chip clients including Tesco , Sainsbury’s and Network Rail, as well as 33 councils across the UK, has bought LitterBoss with the support of a funding package from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

The firm, which turns over £125m a year, said the acquisition will enable Ground Control to grow its gritting and snow clearance capabilities and boost profits in the newly-combined group. It expects turnover to grow to over £150m following the deal, and its 480-strong workforce will be joined by the 500 people working at LitterBoss.

Jim Johnson first took on LitterBoss after retiring from Stadium Group as group managing director.  He was named North East Business Executive of the Year in 1997, 10 years after Stadium Group had moved from London to Hartlepool.  During his 12-year tenure at the top of Stadium Group turnover rose from £17m to £90m, showing how his North East region could provide the ideal relocation for turning round a weakening company.

Mr Johnson will retire from Litterboss, after carrying out a handover period with Ground Control directors.

His son Richard Johnson, who has managed the winter maintenance division for 16 years, will now become director of winter maintenance for the combined business.

He said: “I am looking forward to working for Ground Control at a time when services like winter and grounds maintenance are increasingly on the radar of a wider variety of businesses.

“The combination of our respective portfolios bolsters our position as the leading winter maintenance service provider in the UK, providing unrivalled geographical reach and increased concentration of teams. The challenge of leading this new business excites me enormously.”

Ground Control chief executive Simon Morrish said: “Acquiring LitterBoss has enabled us to consolidate our position as market leader in the winter maintenance field.

“Its service offering is ideally placed to integrate with our proposition to form a more comprehensive range of solutions for our clients.”

Mincoffs Solicitors Corporate team led by partner John Nicholson acted for Litterboss on this transaction.  John said “We were delighted to act for Litterboss on this multi-million pound deal and wish Jim well in his retirement.”


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