AAC mows down GGP sale

GGP’s management team, led by CEO Pierluigi Tosato, will remain in place and reinvest alongside 3i, which is placing three executives on the board: Paolo Antonietti, senior advisor, as chairman; Marco Fumagalli, partner and managing director of 3i Italy, as non executive director; and Lorenzo Salieri, the partner who led the deal, as non executive director.

Fumagalli said: “The current situation in the financial markets is not easy and closing the deal for the acquisition of GGP required a good dose of courage and creativity. We are very pleased that we will be able to work in partnership with the management team in order to grow the business and prepare it for an IPO.” 3i also said it is planning to expand the business into Eastern Europe and Russia.

GGP makes and distributes walk-behind and ride-on lawnmowers alongside hand-held gardening equipment and accessories, operating through brand such as Stiga, Castelgarden and Mountfield. It produces private label products for the garden and DIY centres throughout Europe, and makes products for equipment manufacturers like Honda.

The European market for powered garden equipment is estimated to be worth €2.2bn, and GGP is the market leader with 21% market share (40% market share in the specific segment of ride-ons and front mowers tractors).

ABN AMRO Capital led a €555m buyout of the business in October 2003 from UBS Private Equity. The firm, which changed its name to AAC Capital Partners in September and is currently winding down its business in Italy, put GGP up for auction in July.

“We are proud to have worked with the team of Pierluigi Tosato, repositioning the company from a producer of private labels to a real consumer product company with own brands and a leader in the European market. We wish GGP and 3i to continue on this path of success,” said Antonio Corbani, managing director of ABN AMRO Capital in Italy.

3i has been investing in Italy since 1991, and backed over 50 companies. With the GGP acquisition, the firm now has almost 20 Italian companies in its portfolio.