Cinven led the €675 million buyout of Gardner Merchant from Forte in January 1993. Gardner Merchant was the leading contract catering group in the UK with substantial operations in the US, continental Europe and Australia, providing food services to businesses and the public sector.
Cinven’s strategy was to provide capital for geographical expansion and to drive organic growth by capitalising on the increase in contracting out of catering and other facilities management activities.
The business was highly cash generative and profits increased substantially. It also grew organically and by acquisition in the UK and overseas. In 1994 it acquired Morrison Catering, the leading provider of catering to US colleges, for $100 million.
Gardner Merchant was sold to Sodexho in 1995, achieving a multiple of 2.5x our investment.