Belfast Telegraph

London investor set to buy Cookstown brand

By Rachel Martin

Co Tyrone pork brand Cookstown is set to be taken over as part of a £180m deal to buy its parent company.

Cookstown - famous for a TV advertising campaign featuring George Best in the late 1960s and early 1970s - is currently owned by North Yorkshire firm Karro Food Group, one of the UK's largest suppliers of pork products.

Now both companies will be taken over by the London private equity firm CapVest. It's understood the jobs of the 800 staff members here will be safe as insiders say there are no plans to change the company's structure.

The Karro management team - including Di Walker who chairs the board and Warrenpoint man Seamus Carr as chief executive - will also remain with the business.

The deal will have to be given the go-ahead from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission in Ireland.

Karro Group turns over more than £500m annually and employs around 3,100 people. The group processes around 45,000 pigs every week across its nine UK and Ireland sites and supplies raw pork and cured, cooked and frozen meats to retail, foodservice and manufacturing customers.

It also runs the McGhee's butcher concession in Asda. The business employs more than 90 people and operates around 25 butchers shops across the UK. Its meat is supplied from its factory in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan.

Jason Rodrigues, managing director of CapVest, said: "Karro is a great fit with CapVest's overall investment strategy. The group has established a leading position in the processing and sale of British pork for which we believe the long-term fundamentals are very strong.

"We are delighted to back a very experienced and capable management team and we look forward to working closely with them in pursuing exciting new organic and acquisition-led growth opportunities."

Four years ago, the group made a £10m investment in its Cookstown factory, increasing pork production. The group was acquired from previous owner VION by private equity firm Endless in January 2013.

Endless and Karro are expected to comment when the deal officially completes.

It comes after Belfast Telegraph revealed Dawn Meats plans to bid for Co Tyrone meat firm Dunbia.

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