Engineering company sold to global horticultural consortium

Patrick Harte
X The Business Desk

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Horticultural engineering specialist business CambridgeHOK is now under new ownership.

Its current management team members Patrick Harte and Louis Bradley have joined major new shareholders, Atrium Agri, to lead the East Yorkshire-based company into the future.

Ownership has been transferred from previous shareholders Ross Hibbs, John Holland and Steve Hinch, who owned the business from 2004 and have led it through a period of significant growth, particularly over the past five years.

Now employing more than 70 people, the business consists of the Cambridge Glasshouse, CambridgeHOK Construction and Hotbox International.

Atrium Agri is building a global consortium of significant companies who lead in their field of expertise.

CambridgeHOK is the latest specialist business in the horticulture sector to be brought into the portfolio, joining Havecon, VB Group, PB Tec, BOM Group, and VEK Adviesgroep.

Harte joined the management team in early 2020 as head of commercial. He is a well-known UK horticultural figure having previously chaired the British Tomato Growers Association, alongside managing an 18 hectare tomato site, which was later converted to cannabis production.

Bradley has led the CambridgeHOK Construction business since 2014, during which he has grown it substantially so it now contributes up to 15% of the consolidated turnover.

Louis Bradley

The pair will continue to be supported by the three former owners, who will stay with the business for at least the next two years.

The addition of CambridgeHOK further cements Atrium’s offering to the UK market, as it not only provides a full turn-key offering for the glasshouse sector but has also built Vertical Farming facilities.

And it is the leading engineering company for medicinal cannabis production within the UK.

Atrium shareholder Henk Verbakel, who is also CEO of Dutch commercial glasshouse specialist business Havecon, said: “We see significant growth in the UK market and believe the Atrium group can offer the customers of CambridgeHOK the best solutions available globally.

“We are really pleased Patrick and Louis have decided to join us. They are two highly-talented individuals and will run the business on a day-to-day basis.”

Koen Brabander, also of Atrium, added: “We are proud CambridgeHOK has chosen Atrium in their next steps towards a very bright future.

“The uncertainties of Brexit, the shared vision and the expanded market force, ensures all members of the Atrium group, as well as their customers will benefit from this decision.”

Harte said: “This is great news for us as a business and for our employees as it brings stability and new opportunities for growth.

“Having previously been a customer of CambridgeHOK, I always had tremendous respect for the business and the solutions it offers its customer base.

“The alignment with the Atrium Agri group is perfect and I believe this will allow us to provide the best solutions within the UK marketplace.

“Ross Hibbs, John Holland and Steve Hinch have led the business superbly, reflected by the excellent year we had in 2020 given all the challenges faced in a pandemic.”

Bradley added: “I am delighted to be part of the new organisation. The business has grown significantly over the last few years and being part of the Atrium group gives us access to significant levels of additional support to complement our existing supplier base.

“We see huge potential within the UK market and the timing for this is perfect.”

Previous owner John Holland said: “We believe now is the right time for the business to continue its next evolution under new ownership. We believe we have built a very solid business with an excellent team of people behind it.

“We can see the UK market is changing significantly and the new ownership structure for the business will give access to an even greater skill set, ensuring we can continue to support the UK Horticultural Industry.”

Regional law firm Andrew Jackson Solicitors LLP advised CambridgeHOK’s previous shareholders on the sale.

The advisory team was led by corporate partner Matthew Smith, who was supported by Samuel Peake (property), Nicole Waldron (corporate) and Ben Vincent (corporate). Tom Roseff of BHP provided tax advice to the selling shareholders.

Hinch said: “We are delighted with the advice and support that we received from Matthew and the team at Andrew Jackson Solicitors, who have provided us with valuable, commercial advice at every stage of the process whilst working to tight timescales, to ensure that we achieved our objectives.”

Smith said: “It has been a pleasure to assist Steve, Ross and John on the sale of CambridgeHOK, which is a fantastic business poised for future growth.

“We wish the new shareholders all the best as the business enters an exciting new chapter.”

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