North East deals of the week: key acquisitions, contracts and investments

Middleton Enterprises is helping a growing chain of gyms to scale up its operations across the region.

OneGym was first launched in Darlington by brothers Paul and David Pearson 10 years ago to offer users access to all the latest fitness equipment and classes without costly add-ons like swimming pools which they don’t necessarily want to use.

The group now has six bases across the North East, in Stockton, Bishop Auckland, Newton Aycliffe, Redcar, Thornaby and Durham, each with equipment and facilities such as saunas, sunbeds, and free exercise classes. It offers flexible low cost, peak and off-peak memberships to give customers access to all gyms at no extra cost.

Family-run Middleton Enterprises, based in Newcastle, has invested into OneGym, to help ramp up its operations and expand across the region to become one of the leading gym chains in the North East.

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OneGym co-founder David Pearson said: “Coming out of the pandemic was difficult for any business in the leisure and hospitality sector, but having the support from Middleton Enterprises reinvigorated our ambition. “We are already working on plans to open multiple new sites and are utilising Middleton Enterprises’ experience to refinance and grow the business.”

North East specialist energy and water efficiency company Cenergist is set to create 40 jobs and embark on the acquisition trail after securing a £6m funding package.

Ian Richardson, CFO at Cenergist
Ian Richardson, CFO at Cenergist

Cenergist , which is based in Washington, Tyne and Wear, works with local authorities, water utilities and energy companies to reduce the carbon impact of buildings by providing water efficiency and renewable heating systems.

Launched 10 years ago, Cenergist provides water efficiency and renewable heating systems, with its patented technology helping to drive more efficient water and energy use, as well as helping organisations meet sustainability goals, reduce costs and comply with regulations.

The business, which provides design and install services across the UK and in Europe, has now secured the multimillion-pound package from HSBC UK to increase working capital for bigger projects, while looking to grow through acquisitions.

Fat Hippo expands: (From left) Helen Miller of NatWest, Paul Gainford and Julie Cuthbertson of RMT Accountants & Business Advisors and Fat Hippo founder Mike Phillips.
Fat Hippo expands: (From left) Helen Miller of NatWest, Paul Gainford and Julie Cuthbertson of RMT Accountants & Business Advisors and Fat Hippo founder Mike Phillips.

Popular burger business Fat Hippo is poised to more than double the number of restaurants it runs across the UK and create more than 200 jobs by the end of next year.

Managing director Mike Phillips was still a student at Northumbria University when he wrote the original business plan for the Fat Hippo Group ahead of its launch 12 years ago.

The success of the first eaterie in Jesmond swiftly led to the opening of its subterranean venue in Newcastle city centre, and it now operates other restaurants in Durham, Leeds, Liverpool and Nottingham, plus four concessions, including kiosks within Lane 7’s Sheffield, Manchester and Edinburgh, and a street food fleet that travels across the UK.

The company is now aiming to open up to nine new burger restaurants over the next 18 months, with the first set to open in Cardiff city centre at the end of this month.

The Newcastle-based group’s next restaurant will then follow in Birmingham a few weeks later, with its first restaurant in Scotland, in Glasgow city centre, opening soon after that.

A Newcastle web design agency is eyeing £2m turnover following a six-figure investment into staff and services.

Sleeky, which provides web design, e-commerce and branding consultancy to clients in the North East and throughout the UK, says it has seen growth on the back of its investment and now hopes to reach £2m turnover by 2023.

The firm, which employs 14 people, has recently secured new work with US-based gaming platform Strive Gaming and London-based Fight or Flight.

Sleeky is eyeing £2m turnover by next year
Sleeky is eyeing £2m turnover by next year

Other customers include property, leisure and care sector firm the Malhotra Group, Newcastle University, Newcastle and Gateshead councils and the Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The investment has seen several new appointments to Sleeky including three web developers, a graphic and web designer and digital marketing executives.

Acquisitive wealth management group Fairstone has completed the purchase of a Cumbrian financial planning firm as the latest addition to its growing portfolio.

North East-based Fairstone said Carlisle-based Financial Concepts principals Darren Turnbull, Anthony Phillipson and Nigel Shackleton had decided to join Fairstone in order to support growth ambitions.

Financial Concepts joined Fairstone’s downstream buy out acquisition model – which integrates companies before a full acquisition – in December 2019.

During the integration phase, Financial Concepts saw revenue grow 7% and Fairstone now said it would further support the business through a process it says can effectively double the market value of the business.

The move means 10 advisers and staff join Fairstone, along with more than 1,700 clients and more than £13.5m funds under management.

Nathan Winch, managing partner of Winch & Co.
Nathan Winch, managing partner of Winch & Co.

Northumberland transport and warehouse specialist Dedicated Transport Solutions (DTS) has been snapped by private equity firm Winch & Co.

The undisclosed deal for Cramlington-based DTS – providers of warehousing, time-critical deliveries and abnormal load haulage – will see Leeds-based Winch & Co also take control of the firm’s 250,000 sqft Nelson Park West base.

It follows Winch & Co’s acquisition of Loughbrough-based Eclipse Distribution Solutions – part of a plan to acquire five logistics businesses for its portfolio.

Winch & Co was founded by South Yorkshire entrepreneur Nathan Winch, who sold his first business in 2017. The business, which is based in the centre of Leeds and which has 100 full-time employees, invests in UK companies operating in FMCG, industrial and service-based industries, as well as deploying dynamic growth capital.

Mr Winch said: “This latest acquisition takes us another step closer in our goal to purchase five transport businesses, and DTS now takes its place alongside Eclipse Distribution Solutions whom we purchased last October.

“If there’s anything the Covid pandemic taught us, it’s the importance of logistics and warehousing. Without operators such as DTS and Eclipse, the nation would have ground to a halt.”

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