Caley Timber and Building Supplies adopts employee ownership model

A Highland timber and building supplies business has secured the future of 24 jobs with a switch to employee ownership.

Caley Timber and Building Supplies was established by Donald John Morrison in 2003, and has depots in Inverness and Uist.

With Donald John set to retire, he and his wife and co-owner Jennifer Morrison decided to enter into an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) rather than opt for an open sale of the business, which may have achieved a higher-value price but could have led to potential uncertainty for staff.

The move means there will be no disruption to normal business, and the company will be placed under the stewardship of its 24 staff, with Ewan Urquhart, who has been with the company since its inception, promoted to the board as director.  Alistair Sim remains a director and will assume more responsibilities as Donald John reduces his time with the company.

Owners Donald John and Jennifer Morrison cited several reasons for choosing the EOT route in favour of a traditional sale and described the process as ‘seamless’.

He said, “An EOT was a less intrusive option and we did not have to share sensitive information with prospective purchasers, the timing has been controlled to suit the business, and it also avoided the risk of unsettling our staff who may have picked up that the business was for sale.

“We value the relationships we have built with our customers, their loyalty and support are what’s made Caley Timber the very successful business it has become, and an EOT means business simply continues as is. I am confident our customers will notice absolutely no difference at all to the quality of service.”

The idea of the EOT solution was introduced by Donald Forsyth of the firm’s accountants, Saffery Champness. He explained, “A sale to an EOT is proving to be a popular option for Highland business owners. Caley Timber is an excellent example of a flourishing company serving the Highlands and Islands and the EOT has secured the future of the business as a locally owned company.”

Donald Forsyth joins the Caley Board as non-executive director.

Legal advice was provided by Harper Macleod. Partner Chris Kerr added, “Caley Timber is a great business. It was a privilege to support Donald and the team on this next stage of the company’s journey.”

Carole Leslie of Ownership Associates helped manage the transition project and assisted with employee communication. Carole said, “It is evident that Donald has given some serious thought as to how he wants the business he founded almost 20 years ago to continue to benefit the staff who have worked alongside him to make it a success.

“In choosing a third-party sale Donald could arguably have landed a bigger retirement pay-day but his decision to enter into an EOT was based on more altruistic reasoning, and he assessed this route was the best option for rewarding his colleagues and ensuring a seamless continuity for staff and customers alike.”