Equistone sells stake in CH&CO to Compass Group
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Equistone sells stake in CH&CO to Compass Group

22 Jan. 2024

Equistone Partners Europe (“Equistone”), one of Europe’s leading mid-market private equity investors, today announces the realisation of its investment in CH&CO, a provider of premium contract and hospitality services in the UK and Ireland, through the sale of the company to Compass Group UK & Ireland, the UK’s largest food and support services business. The transaction values CH&CO at an initial enterprise value of £475 million and is subject to regulatory approval.

CH&CO offers premium contract and hospitality catering services throughout the UK to a broad range of sectors, including workplaces, venues, tourist destinations, independent and state schools, further education, healthcare and events. The company has a prestigious client portfolio, including some of the UK’s leading companies, charities and organisations, and has held a Royal Warrant since 2013.  

Since investing in the business in 2019, Equistone has worked closely with CH&CO’s management team on executing a robust growth plan focused on consolidating the company’s strong market position. This included an ambitious buy-and-build strategy, which saw CH&CO acquire Gather & Gather and Creativevents, the workplace catering and events businesses of Mitie, in 2019; Company of Cooks in 2019; Vacherin in 2020; and Blue Apple and Pabulum in 2023. Today, the business has over 10,000 employees and has grown its annual revenues from £286 million in 2018 to c. £450 million.

Equistone also provided significant support during the Covid-19 pandemic, when lockdown restrictions severely impacted the catering sector by forcing the closure of workplaces, schools and the vast majority of other venues. In response, Equistone supported a refinancing and fundraising with existing shareholders and lenders which strengthened CH&CO’s liquidity position, and simultaneously worked with the management team to restructure and optimise the company’s supply chain operations amid the disruption. 

Ed Baker of Equistone said: “Having invested alongside the management team at CH&CO for the first time in 2015, I am hugely proud to have worked with such a capable team for a second time. Since 2015 CH&CO has increased turnover and EBITDA significantly despite the considerable headwinds generated by the pandemic, which is testament to the strength of the team and the support provided to the business by all its shareholders, lenders and advisors. We wish the team all the best as they enter the next stage of their journey.”

Tim Jones, CH&CO’s Chairman and the founder of the company 33 years ago with his late wife Robyn, said: “CH&CO now enters the next stage of its exciting evolution following this growth period with Equistone. We are very pleased to be joining one of the world’s leading foodservice businesses and I would like to sincerely thank our team for their contribution to the period when we were involved with Equistone.” 

This latest realisation extends a period of significant exit activity for Equistone, with the firm generating c. €2bn in investor proceeds from six exits in 2023.



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