Consultancy Based in Shetland Latest Scottish Business to Become Employee Owned

Control of unique specialist services provider transfers to its staff

ESPL Regulatory Consulting (ESPL), a unique business which provides specialist regulatory services to the life sciences and pharmaceutical / medical device industries, has become the latest company in Scotland to be employee-owned.

Ownership of ESPL has transferred from the Erwood family to a trust for the benefit of the company’s staff.  The transfer has been supported by Highlands & Islands Enterprise, which provided a grant for the legal costs involved in the business buyout.

Co-operative Development Scotland – an arm of Scottish Enterprise – provided early support on Employee Ownership and the EO Trust model, and Ownership Associates assisted the business throughout its transition.

ESPL, which has its Headquarters in Shetland, operates internationally and has sister companies in Ireland and Switzerland.  The company is one of Scotland’s most experienced independent specialist consultancies serving the medicines and medical device industries globally.  The company operates in Glasgow, England, across the EU, Switzerland, North America and Australia.

When a new medicine or a medical device is developed, the scientific data from laboratory studies and clinical trials needs to be reviewed, compiled and submitted to regulatory authorities around the world.  ESPL’s team of highly-experienced medical and regulatory professionals and scientists define strategies and complete these activities on behalf of its clients.

The company supports a range of fascinating and medically-important projects, including:

  • new high-tech treatments for rare diseases,
  • new / generic medicines and medical devices,
  • radioactive treatments for cancer diagnosis and therapy, and
  • training in pharmaceutical law.

In considering their long-term succession options the owners, Helen, Tony, and Chris Erwood, were keen to identify a solution that would allow the business to continue to thrive for the benefit of the employees and remain rooted in Scotland.

Dr Helen Erwood, a respected authority in the world of pharmaceutical regulatory affairs, will continue to be involved in the business.  “It’s approaching time for control of the business to be handed over to the next generation.  We have built up a successful business from our Shetland base and we couldn’t have done that without the considerable talents and efforts of our team.  One of our core values is collaboration, and the employee ownership model reinforces that.”

Dr Erwood went on to say, “I’m delighted to have transferred the company to employee-ownership, Tony, Chris and I are looking forward to helping Jason and the ESPL team to steer ahead and continue to thrive for the foreseeable future.  We’re very grateful to Carole Leslie of Ownership Associates for helping us navigate the process – she was great fun to work with”

Employee ownership provides an ideal means of enabling control of the business to be passed onto the ESPL team who can protect the consultancy’s best interests and ensure the outstanding reputation it has earned within its specialist sectors will be maintained.

Jason Collins, an experienced Regulatory Professional, joins the Board as Managing Director and is looking forward to the challenge.  “Helen, Tony and Chris’ are handing the team a tremendous opportunity to take ESPL to the next level.  They have created something unique and special and it’s up to us to ensure that the company continues to grow.”

ESPL has been advised and supported by Blackadders LLP, and Ownership Associates in the transition to employee ownership.

Carole Leslie of Ownership Associates, says,  “The Employee Ownership Trust provides a tax effective succession option for business owners.  Employee ownership works for the seller, the employees, the customers and keeps businesses in the local community.  Evidence demonstrates that companies owned by their employees outperform their peers on just about every business metric.”

Andrew Gear, Highlands and Islands Enterprise account manager for ESPL says “HIE are delighted to have supported ESPL in making this significant move to employee ownership.  ESPL provides unique and quality life-science jobs to Shetland people.  By making this move, the owners have secured these jobs and the long-term presence of the company in Shetland.”

Sarah Deas, director at Co-operative Development Scotland, said: “We’re delighted to welcome ESPL to Scotland’s growing EO community.  For the Erwoods EO has provided a perfect business succession solution.  They appreciated the fact that transferring ownership to their team would secure their independent consultancy status and give the staff a great opportunity to take ESPL to the next level.  We wish the business every success going forward.”

Susan McFadyen, Director, Blackadders LLP, said: “The employee ownership route is an excellent succession option for businesses who are committed to long term success in their local communities.  It was a real pleasure working with the team at ESPL.  The employment is sustained as long as the company is successful, and the owner can exit at their own pace having achieved a fair price for their business.”

There are around 100 employee-owned companies operating in Scotland, with approximately 7,000 employee-owners generating a combined turnover of around £940 million.  Statistics consistently demonstrate that employee-owned businesses outperform their non EO counterparts in terms of higher levels of profitability, improved business resilience during times of recession, and increased productivity brought about by higher levels of engagement and enhanced employee wellbeing.