Hopetoun people on EO Day

Blooming Good Move for New Hopetoun Gardens

Ownership Associates were delighted to work with the fantastic team at New Hopetoun Gardens in their move to employee ownership.

Owners Dougal Philip and Lesley Watson set up the garden centre more than 40 years ago in the grounds of Hopetoun House and it is recognised by gardeners everywhere as the “Garden Centre for Gardeners”. As well as the very well-stocked garden centre, there is a popular tearoom, gift shop and demonstration gardens.

When Dougal and Lesley began to consider their succession options, they were keen to ensure that the future of the 37 loyal employees was secure; that the several thousand regular customers would continue to experience the excellent expert service they had come to expect at New Hopetoun Gardens; and the unique business that had nurtured for forty years would continue and thrive.  There was an opportunity to sell the business to an interested buyer, but the couple were concerned that any new owner might make changes that wouldn’t fit with the company culture. They were very excited when they looked at employee ownership models and the particular solution that Ownership Associates created with them was tailored to precisely meet their aspirations.

In June 2019, Dougal and Lesley sold a majority shareholding to an Employee Ownership Trust. The Trust will hold the shares on behalf of the employees. The company cannot be sold in future unless at least 75% of employees agree to the sale. In this way, New Hopetoun Gardens is in the hands of the people who know it best, the employees.

Dougal Philip says “Our success is because we’re gardeners first. Employee ownership helps protect that ethos and I’m confident we made the right choice. Ownership Associates helped ensure the transition ran smoothly and we achieved the best outcome for us as sellers, and for the employees as new owners.”

Lesley Watson agrees. “It was wonderful to see how well the news was received by the staff. There were lots of hugs and thanks, and everyone is genuinely excited about what the future holds. The customers were equally positive; they are delighted that New Hopetoun Gardens is here for the long term. And Dougal and I will still be around and do whatever the team want for the next few years.”

Co-owner Morag Macrae will take over the reins from Dougal and Lesley as they phase into their retirement. She says “We have been handed a marvellous opportunity and it is now up to us to make it work.  It’s a privilege to be part of such a unique and special business.  Our future is secure and we’re looking towards a successful new chapter.”

Legal advice was provided by Ewan Regan of Anderson Strathern and accountancy and tax support by French Duncan. Scottish Enterprise provided partial grant funding for the costs of the transaction support.