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Founding family sells Mercedes truck dealer Sparshatts of Kent

By Chris Price

A van and truck dealer is under new ownership after its family owners decided to sell up.

Mercedes Benz commercial vehicle retailer Sparshatts of Kent will no longer have anyone from its founding family in the boardroom after 43 years, following a management buyout agreed on Tuesday.

The business was formed in 1975 on Eurolink Industrial Estate in Sittingbourne by Roger Sparshatt, who retired in 2000, and his late business partner David Jones.

Sparshatts' new owners dealer principal Steve Rooney, right, his brother Paul, centre, and Peter Davies

It sold 30 vehicles in its first year, employing nine staff and losing £9,000.

Today, more than 200 people work for the company, which registered nearly 1,500 new and used vehicles last year, making revenues of £88 million and pre-tax profits of £1.9 million.

The company has been taken over by a group under the name Belfry Trucks Ltd, led by long-standing employee Paul Rooney, who has worked at the business for more than three decades.

Former dealer principal Andrew Sparshatt, son of co-founder Roger, said it was "the right time" to sell the business.

He said: "It was a difficult decision to make but a lot is happening in the industry.

"It is tough and needs a lot of investment.

Sparshatts of Kent supplied Longfield-based Mercer Scaffolding with its first three Mercedes-Benz trucks

"I have mixed emotions. I have known a lot of the people in the company for a very long time.

"We have had offers from conglomerates in the past which didn't fit with our ethos.

"There will be a nice transition with this management buyout.

"There is no reason for staff to fear for their jobs because the new owners see a lot of opportunities."

New co-owner Mr Rooney joined Sparshatts as a service advisor in 1982 and left in 1986 to drive trucks for a living, but returned three years later.

Sparshatts of Kent supplied Canterbury-based Aquaflow with its 100th Mercedes-Benz van and marked the occasion by giving it a gold livery

He said: “Having worked for Sparshatts for the best part of 35 years I have no hesitation in saying that we’re inheriting a great team of colleagues.

"What they need now is the strategic direction and motivation that will be instrumental in taking this company forward into a new era. That’s exactly what we’re going to give them.”

The other new major shareholders in the business are entrepreneur Steve Rooney, Paul's brother, financial director Peter Davies, who has worked closely with Steve and Paul for the last 10 years, and chairman Sid Sadique, the group managing director of NRG Fleet Services and Riverside Truck Rental.

Steve Rooney added: “This acquisition marks the culmination of a long-held dream for Paul and I. We have exciting plans for major investments in our people and in our facilities, and are looking forward to working in a spirit of close partnership with the team at Mercedes-Benz Trucks HQ.”

Tunbridge Wells-based law firm Cripps and Canterbury accountants Burgess Hodgson both advised on the deal.

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