Birketts advises on UK construction sector’s biggest employee ownership trust formation


07 September 2021

Site view provided with permission of Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd

Birketts has advised privately run construction heavyweight, Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd (Buckingham Group), in respect of its sale in to an employee ownership trust (EOT). The transfer of 100% of the organisation’s equity into an EOT will benefit the company’s 650-strong workforce and set the business in good stead to realise its succession plans. To celebrate the sale, 540 eligible staff members received a congratulatory £1,000 tax free bonus.

Established in November 1987, multidisciplinary contractor, Buckingham Group, offers stand-alone and fully integrated construction services across a number of industries including civil engineering, sports and leisure and rail. Boasting a turnover approaching £700m, the Buckingham-based organisation will be led by a new senior leadership team, including Ian McSeveney (Group Managing Director), Simon Walkley (Deputy Group Managing Director), Andrew Kerr (Group Financial Director) and Richard Plant (Group Commercial Director).

Mike Kempley (CEO) and Tim Brown (COO), have been promoted to the roles of Chairman and Deputy Chairman respectively following the retirement of founders Paul Wheeler and Patricia Wheeler. The Buckingham Group will continue to provide support to public and private sector clients in the UK and Ireland.

The Trustee Board (Buckingham Group Employee Ownership Trust) will be represented by a Corporate Trustee (BGC Trustee Ltd), which is comprised of two member directors and two employee directors and led by an independent Chairman, ensuring that decisions about the future of the company represent equally the interests of all.

The Birketts team was co-led by Ed Savory (Partner, Corporate) and Lisa Hayward (Partner, Head of Employee Incentives) who in turn were supported by colleagues including Heidi Bond, Sarah Branwhite and Sam Varney (Corporate) and Xiaolei Liu, Jessica Kilkenny and Kirsty Scripps (Employee Incentives).

Chairman Mike Kempley, commented: “Knowing that the success of the company was in no small part due to its dynamic and engaged workforce, switching to an employee ownership model was the right choice for Buckingham Group and we are very excited to embark on this new chapter of the business. The transition not only benefits our people in the short term but we feel confident that rewarding colleagues through employee ownership helps to nurture the very culture that has made us so well respected by stakeholders for over thirty years.”

I would like to thank every single one of the Birketts team we have had the pleasure to deal with. My gratitude is not only for your friendly, enthusiastic, helpful nature and your limitless patience, but also for your efficiency, accuracy, judgement and extremely sound guidance and advice.”

Lisa Hayward, Partner and Head of Employee Incentives, concluded: “It is always a pleasure to assist a company which so clearly values its people and for the Buckingham Group, employee ownership is the natural next step in developing the company’s culture further. Employee ownership offers a seamless way of rewarding employees in a manner that causes no business disruption and avoids the uncertainties of a third party sale. I have no doubt that for a board with growth in mind, this remodel will help the company boost its productivity, creativity and stability and contribute to the continued long-term success of the company.”

Birketts advised alongside BDO LLP (led by Terry Moore, Partner and Head of Real Estate Tax in London). Ed Savory commented: “It always such a pleasure working with Terry and his team on EOTs – they seem to have an unrivalled ability to advise clients on how to navigate the intricacies of becoming an EOT, whilst on the one hand being creative and on the other hand ensuring grey areas are avoided. Our teams worked collaboratively on this transaction resolving some highly complex issues.”