Tyrrells, the premium snacks and crisps business, has been sold to private equity investor Investcorp for a price of £100m; Tyrrells was founded by farmer Will Chase, who first started the business as a sideline on his farm

Tyrrells sold to Investcorp for £100m

Tyrrells, the premium snacks and crisps business, has been sold to private equity investor Investcorp for a price of £100m, it can be revealed.

Tyrrells was founded by farmer Will Chase, who first started the business as a sideline on his Herefordshire farm, Tyrrells Court Farm, in 2002.

By James Quinn, Financial Editor

1:02PM BST 01 Aug 2013

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The business, which has expanded from making crisps to a range of snacks in recent years, was put up for sale by private equity owner Langholm Capital earlier this year. Investcorp is an investor well versed in growing premium brands, with past investments including Gucci, Tiffany and Helly Hansen.Investcorp is understood to have beaten off a number of trade and financial bidders.

It is understood that the heads of terms of the transaction were signed this morning, with the deal due to complete over the next few days.

The sale will see chief executive David Milner stay on to lead the business, which has doubled its revenue in the last three years under his leadership.

Tyrrells was founded by farmer Will Chase, who first started the business as a sideline on his Herefordshire farm, Tyrrells Court Farm, in 2002.

Although initially focused on the UK market, it has since expanded into a number of emerging markets including Russia, India and China.

Mr Milner wants to use the new backers’ investment to focus on France, Germany, the Netherlands and the US, which he sees as the key international snack markets.

He told Telegraph.co.uk: “This is wonderful news for our business as it means we can continue to do what we do; produce the world’s finest snacks and grow our business as fast as we like.

“There is no change in some respects, but in other respects we can go even faster.”

Tyrrells targets the premium end of the crisp market with “hand cooked” gourmet flavours such as sea salt and cider vinegar, honey roast ham and cranberry, and sour cream and roasted garlic.

However in recent years it has launched other products, and is Europe’s only manufacturer of vegetable crisps, for example. It also specialises in producing and selling premium popcorn and tortilla.

Langholm Capital bought Tyrrells from Mr Chase in April 2008 for £40m. Langholm is backed by Unilever, the global consumer and household goods firm. Its other investments include Dorset Cereals and Purity Soft Drinks.

Mr Chase used the £30m he made from the original sale of Tyrrells to set up a vodka distillery. He has since sold his investment in the business, and will not benefit from this latest sale.

Tyrrells employs 270 people from its based in Herefordshire, and is on track to generate retail sales in excess of £100m in the current year.

Fame & Fortune:Tyrrells Crisps founder William Chase

William Chase founded Tyrrells Crisps in 2002 and gained £30m when he sold it last year. He now runs Chase Distillery, a vodka producer based in Herefordshire.


William Chase says that money can buy you happiness

By Emma Wall

6:00AM BST 03 Jul 2011


My parents were farmers so we were asset rich but cash poor. I went to a private boarding school, but my godfather was on the board, so I managed to get a subsidy. Other people’s parents had smart cars and mine would pick me up in an old van.

When your parents are living for the business, you don’t have luxuries at home because any spare money just got put back into the business. I have always had the same sort of attitude.

I was a very difficult child. I was never happy – wherever I went to school. I’d much rather be home on the farm doing things. I was very stubborn and always wanted to do my own thing.


When I look at other entrepreneurs we’re all the same – hungry. I think there are people who are satisfied with what they’ve got and there are people who aren’t.

My sisters used to say to me, you’ll never be happy whatever you have. I always used to feel there was something bigger, something better in life – more exciting.


I think money is there to make life possible. People say money cannot buy you happiness, and I would have agreed with that for years, but I think now it does actually. We live in a very materialistic world. But I am sensible with it, I try to buy things that don’t depreciate.


When I was about 20, my mother died. After a few years my father lost interest in the farm, so I had to buy it off him. I had to borrow £200,000 to do so and I struggled for a few years after that. I had no business experience and I was paying people’s wages.

After 10 years, my partner – who was my father-in-law – had money troubles and had to withdraw his support, which resulted in me going bankrupt. It was pretty dreadful at the time, but it did teach me a lot. Knowledge is worth more than money.


I already had contacts in the potato world, so I started trading potatoes. It was tough. I was almost suicidal I was so desperate. But in hindsight, it taught me to make every penny count. For every 50p I invested I had to get £1 back. It was a good age to learn that lesson.

We all think we can make money in our twenties, but it happens very rarely. It’s only in your forties, once you’ve had hardship, that you learn how to make it work.


The best way to make a stock go down in the past was if I bought it. I invested in Woolworths and that promptly went from £50,000 to nothing.

I don’t speculate any more, but I do buy stocks where I have a personal knowledge of the company or the people behind it.


My pension plan is only worth about £100,000 after 30 years of saving. I believe if you own your own business that is your pension.

I also have a portfolio of three farms, and although they don’t make a lot of money the land they are on has increased in value.


A lot of people thought that after selling I could just stop working. But to be honest with you it was a shock. You spend your whole life working so hard and then there’s nothing to do. It got very boring. I would never retire.

I think we’ve got it all wrong in this country. Years ago people physically worked, so they had to retire at 60. People who enjoy their work shouldn’t be made to retire. It’s not surprising a lot of men snuff it after they stop working.

The human body and brain, it’s use it or lose it. You have to have something to get you up in the morning.


My best investment is my children. Other than that, it’s all the projects that didn’t work. Without those bad times I would never have been able to set up Tyrrells Crisps.


I don’t have any investments that I am that disappointed with, other than Woolworths.


I like debit cards. I don’t like credit cards. I think if you can’t afford it, you shouldn’t have it.


I am a great believer in tipping for service. If service is fantastic, and the money goes directly to the person who has provided that service, then I am generous.


When you have a successful company, you get approached by a lot of charities. I think to do a charity justice you should choose just one or two and support them properly. A lot of companies just pick a charity for the PR, but I like to find ones that are efficient with their money. I have supported Haven because I feel they do the most with the money they raise.


I like them with nothing on – so you can taste the potato.

Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

The Yankee Chipper

By Lisa McLaughlin

Growing up in the rural town of Leominster in England’s Herefordshire County, William Chase always knew he would follow his father into farming. As a teenager, he worked on the family’s Tyrrells Court farm, and in 1984, at age 20, he bought the place from his father with a $400,000 bank loan. Heavily in debt from the start, the farm faltered, and the bank called the loan in 1992. Chase was forced to declare bankruptcy.

Determined to make a success of his family legacy, Chase leased back part of the farm from the receivers until he could afford to buy it all back, eventually relaunching Tyrrells Court as a potato grower. By the mid-1990s, the farm was profitable, and Chase had set up a successful sideline as a consultant and broker between farmers and major supermarket chains. But when the supers started squeezing farmers on price by sourcing cheaper spuds from Eastern Europe, Chase knew he had to diversify. “It was time for something new,” he says.

His inspiration came in late 2001 when French-fry king McCain (which supplies McDonald’s) rejected a batch of Chase’s taters because they were frying up too dark. “I sold the batch to a specialty-crisp maker instead,” says Chase, crisp being the British word for potato chip. (A chip in Britspeak is a French fry.) Tasting the finished product made him think he could do better. With a secondhand fryer, Chase began experimenting with his own potato chips. Yes, chips in the American sense. “It’s potato chips and not crisps,” he explains, “because with crisps they slice them too thinly and wash all the starch off.” That causes the resulting product to absorb more of the oil, so “they have no potato taste.”

Finding inspiration in American-made artisanal chips, Chase hopped a plane to Boston to see how Cape Cod hand-stirred kettle chips were made. Munching his way through the U.S., he went to Pennsylvania’s Amish country, where “there are just loads of little chips makers.” After benchmarking the best, Chase returned to Tyrrells Court and began cooking. The first batches of Tyrrells Potato Chips reached stores in the summer of 2002, with four flavors: chili, cider vinegar, cheese and black pepper. Within eight months, Chase was turning over $2 million worth of business. Within three years, Tyrrells was boasting sales of $10 million a year.

None of those came from the major supermarkets who once pounded him on potato pricing: with the exception of Waitrose, the chips are stocked only in independent delicatessens and farm shops. The average order is just $300. When Chase found out last year that retail biggie Tesco was sourcing the chips through diverters, he squawked until the product was pulled.

The decision to distribute through small retailers was twofold. Yes, revenge is sweet for a small farmer whose livelihood was made so tenuous by the chains. He said then, “Tesco finished us as a potato farmer, so we got into the specialty-crisp trade. If we had sold these through Tesco, it could have finished that too.” There’s also his fear of being commoditized again. “We are a premium product, and that’s the way we will remain,” says Chase. “Once we are on the shelves of a supermarket and they start discounting the price, we are no longer premium. And we don’t have the resources to compete with the big Frito-Lays of the world.”

But retaining a sense of the local hasn’t stopped global expansion. Tyrrells boasts customers from Russia to China to the U.S., where Chase is amused that his brand is sitting on shelves next to the chips that inspired him. He’s a little disappointed that hit U.K. flavors like asparagus with crushed black pepper and duck with orange and ginger have been slow to catch on. “Americans really aren’t keen on the asparagus,” he says. Right ho, on that one.

Chase recently found another way to turn a commodity into a premium product. He created an organic vodka “using the potatoes that are too small to be made into chips.” Once again he did his research in the U.S., visiting micro-distilleries. “We have this beautiful copper still from Germany. It is quite a laborious process, but the result is a farm-made, artisanal product, much like our potato chips.” No word yet on an asparagus-flavored version.

Will Chase holds the chips as suitors vie for Tyrrells

Will Chase has turned Tyrrells Crisps into a multi-million pound company

By Ben Harrington

12:01AM GMT 17 Jan 2008

Will Chase, the potato farmer who had a public spat with Tesco, could be about to reap a multi-million pounds fortune from the a sale of a stake in his upmarket Tyrrells Crisps business in a deal that is likely to value the company at more than £20m.

Mr Chase has appointed corporate financiers at BDO Stoy Hayward to carry out a strategic review of Tyrrells Crisps after receiving a number of unsolicited approaches for the company.

It is understood first-round proposals from a small group of private equity firms were due in last week and meetings with those taken through to next round will take place over the next few weeks.
Although Tyrrells Crisps is talking to potential outside investors, it is understood Mr Chase has no plans to exit the business.
He started making crisps at his farm in Hertfordshire in 2002 when a big manufacturer rejected a batch of his potatoes.

Mr Chase then decided to only sell through up-market delicatessens and Waitrose because, as a potato farmer, he was virtually wiped out by supermarkets’ demands for low prices.

However, last year the entrepreneur found that Tesco was selling Tyrrells products at a reduced price in 70 stores, having sourced them on the grey market.

Following several complaints from Tyrrells, Tesco eventually backed down.

“Tesco finished us as a potato farmer so we got into the speciality crisp trade. If we had sold these through Tesco it could have finished that too,” Mr Chase was reported to have said.

Mr Chase now has big ambitions for Tyrrells: the crisp producer plans to make vodka out of potatoes that are too small to turn into potato chips.

Tyrrells’ will use a £5m regional prize it won in the Bank of Scotland’s Corporate £25m Challenge to build a distillery at its Herefordshire farm as part of plans to build a sustainable business.


Tyrrells Crisps entrepreneur bets the farm on £3m French vineyard

William Chase, the founder of Tyrrells Crisps, is producing a red wine similar to Chateauneuf-du-Pape at his vineyard in Provence Photo: Alamy

By Harriet Dennys, City Diary Editor

7:00AM BST 31 Jul 2013

Tyrrells Crisps founder William Chase has put his house on the line to fund his latest business venture. His holiday home in Ibiza, that is – plus his 80ft superyacht, Mr Chase.

The assets have been sold to help fund the entrepreneur’s £3m acquisition of a vineyard in the South of France – the 25-hectare estate deep in the Luberon Hills formerly owned by the late Saatchi & Saatchi director Allen Chevalier.

Chase plans to spend about 40pc of his time at his new holding near the village of Lourmarin in Provence, where he will cultivate a “complicated red” he claims is “similar” to Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Following the first harvest this autumn, Constantin-Chase, as the blend of Grenache and Syrah grapes will be called, will go on sale in the UK towards the end of next year for £12 a bottle – but in independent wine merchants only.

As Chase tells me of his focus on margins: “It’s not about turnover, but leftover.” And no hangover, presumably.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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