This Lancashire family firm is going national with multi-million pound acquisition

A Lancashire construction services and haulage firm has signalled its intention to become a national player with a major acquisition.

By Tim Gavell
Monday, 11th April 2022, 3:55 pm

Lancashire-based Fox Group has bought Cotswold Roller Hire Limited (CRH), a major force in the hire of specialist compaction equipment across England and Wales for an undisclosed multi-million pound sum.

The acquisition strengthens Fox Group’s market position with the addition of CRH’s extensive portfolio of plant, machinery, market knowledge and depots.

The company aid that the move heralded a major shift from primarily a Northwest provider of its multi-faceted services to a significant nationwide operator.

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Some of the Fox Brothers Group waggons showing the livery of the various companies. The Group has just bought Cotswolds-based CRH

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In February this year, Fox Brothers announced it had bought Blackledge Plant Hire in a deal designed to further increase its size and capacity, creating a group with a combined turnover forecast to be around £85m in 2022.

That deal came after another acquisition, in August 2021, of Lostock Hall-based J J O’Grady, which offers infrastructure and highways maintenance works, including streetlighting. The Lostock Lane firm works with local authorities, housing developers and civil engineering contractors.

Prior to that Fox Brothers bought plant hire specialist Clive Hurt Plant Hire Ltd in a multi-million-pound deal. At the time Fox Brothers said that acquisition was to be a catalyst for future growth and create significant opportunities to compete for larger projects.

Blackpool based Fox brothers is in a process of expansion to become a national business

The Sandham House Leyland firm added its 80 waggons and 400 pieces of plant machinery to that of Whitehills, Blackpool-headquartered Fox Group’s 70 waggons.

Now the move to buy CRH has expanded the group’s reach outside the North West and added diversity to the operations.

Founded in 1965, CRH has established itself as one of the pioneers of non–operated plant hire, earning a reputation for expertise and product innovation.

CRH has its headquarters in Evesham and operates from seven other depots; in Andover, Bridgend, Essex, County Durham, Plymouth, Sheffield and Wigan, each of which will now be able to offer clients the comprehensive range of extensive services that the Fox Group provides.

The Peterbilt truck with the artwork of company founder Harold Fox, known as HF, painted on it

In announcing the acquisition, Paul Fox, chief executive of Fox Group, said: “CRH has a solid reputation with strong family values and an outstanding team who are passionate about customer service, which is aligned to the Fox Group culture. The acquisition of CRH adds a large number of plant items and specialised transport to our already substantial fleet of plant, tippers and bulk haulage.

"The geographical spread of CRH’s depot extends the reach of Fox Group, hugely increasing our footprint across the UK.”

Neville Thomas, managing director at CRH said: “This announcement is good news for the future of CRH. Our business achieved record results in 2021, thanks to the effort and commitment of all our employees.

"Becoming part of the Fox Group will allow us to build on that success. Over the coming years, there will be new opportunities to grow and develop the business.”

Fox Brothers' restored Peterbilt truck

John Flood, Fox Group chief operating officer, said: “The acquisition of CRH is another step in the delivery of our strategic plan, strengthening our core market position and bringing with it additional commercial benefits. This next stage is an exciting time for the growth of the Fox Group”.

In the past three years Fox Group has continued to deliver its strategy to expand its scope and scale, with the latest acquisition allowing the group to move from a regional to national operator.

Through organic and acquisition growth, the group, consisting of Fox Brothers (Lancashire), Fox Properties, Hurt Plant Hire, Celplas, JJ O’Grady Ltd, Blackledge Plant Hire and now CRH boasts 18 locations, a 270 wagon fleet, 1,800 items of plant and machinery as well as employment for 620 people.

The eight new locations boosts the already extensive portfolio owned by Fox Properties.

The Group, founded in 1932 by Jack Fox who handed the reigns to his son Harold Fox, known as Barney, in the 1970’s, is well positioned to continue to deliver strong revenue growth and solid financial returns, providing the platform to deliver its long-term plan.

The transaction was supported by Close Brothers, the FTSE 250 Merchant Bank.

Fox Brothers of Blackpool staged a convoy on the M55 as 66 trucks went to Liverpool for the ending of a construction project.

Andrew Metcalfe, Corporate Sales Director said: “We are delighted to assist Fox Brothers with this transaction and to help the group expand nationally.” Close Brothers have a long-standing relationship with Fox Group.

Paul Fox further commented: “With this, as with previous acquisitions we are grateful for the ongoing support of Close Brothers, whose commitment to support our commercial strategy is enabling us to realise our ambition for growth”.

Fox Group were advised by Hill Dickinson.

Established in the1970s, Bamber Bridge-based Blackledge Plant Hire, a second generation, family-run business, had built a strong reputation as a plant hire specialist with 40 machines and14 trucks.

The Fox Group this year announced a partnership with North West networking group, Shout Network, and is the headline partners at the three Shout business expos this year, including the recent one a the Guild Hall in Preston attended by hundreds of businesses.

The Fox Brothers family is proud of its family business heritage and in 2019, just before Christmas, its drivers staged a 66 truck convoy along the M55 motorway and on towards Liverpool.

Drivers from the Whitehills firm were kings of the road for the day to honour the founder of the company Harold Fox, known as HF, and to get as many of the firm’s distinctive blue trucks out together.

HF died in 2007, The company has a Peterbilt truck from the US which has been restored and custom painted with a portrait of HF air brushed on the read of the cab.