Ownership switch

Tough Construction now biggest EOT in Scotland

Graham Cunning
Graham Cunning: managed the transaction

Tough Construction, a 500-employee company based in Glasgow, has become the largest business in Scotland to transfer its entire shareholding to an Employee Ownership Trust.

Founded in 1974, Tough Construction works mainly on projects for house builders throughout Central Scotland, Perthshire, Fife and Ayrshire.

The shareholders, Bob Leishman, George Duncan and Kenny MacKenzie, took over the business in a management buyout in 2007.  When considering their succession options, keeping the workforce secure and maintaining the high standards of service delivery was central to their thoughts.

Mr Leishman said: “Our success is largely due to the loyal team we have at Tough Construction. We are fortunate that we have a low turnover relative to the sector, and that’s largely because we like to think we look after our people well, offering opportunities for training and development. A sale to a third party may have disrupted that.”

He added: “A sale to an employee ownership trust lets us have our exit, knowing that the company is in safe hands. We have a talented leadership team ready to take over and it’s time for the old guard to step aside. So far, the news has been well received by staff and clients. It remains business as usual and that’s good news for everyone.”

The three shareholders will retire following the completion of the transaction and the company has made two new board appointments. 

Gary Hassan will become commercial director and Mhari Greer is promoted to finance director.  They join the board alongside Craig Lavery, construction director, and Gillian Beaton who is procurement director, alongside Alistair Lauder who has been promoted to managing director.

Mr Lauder welcomed the changes: “The shareholders are demonstrating tremendous vision in transferring their shareholding to the trust.  I believe it is good for the company and for the employees.  The company will celebrate its 50th year in business next year, it will be good to do that as an employee-owned business.”

Graham Cunning, head of corporate finance in Scotland with accountancy firm Azets, which has been managing the transaction said: “Azets are thrilled to have worked with the shareholders of Tough Construction to guide them towards completion of Scotland’s largest EOT to date. It has been a great pleasure working with George, Bob and Kenny on their succession planning process through to the transfer of the business to the staff.

“The sale to an EOT puts the future of the business in the capable hands of the new management team and their employees.”

Carole Leslie of Ownership Associates has provided specialist employee ownership support with legal advice provided by Wright Johnston Mackenzie.

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