Pie maker sold to Country Style Foods

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Country style foods

Court-Johnston is seeking new opportunities in the food industry
Court-Johnston is seeking new opportunities in the food industry
Wigan Athletic chairman Dave Whelan has sold pie maker Pooles of Wigan to Country Style Foods, safeguarding 60 jobs at the company, after falling out with chief executive Neil Court-Johnston.

Pooles owner Whelan saw it plunge into administration on August 13 before clinching the deal for an undisclosed sum on August 14.

“It has now been sold out of administration and we managed to keep 60 jobs,”​ Whelan told FoodManufacture.co.uk.

Court-Johnston said the business had been sold to Country Style Foods. Among other interests, the company operates instore bakeries for top grocery retail chains.

Court-Johnston announced an agreement with Whelan to take on the company for £3M in the spring of 2012, having been a director at south Wales firm Peter’s Food Service. However, the deal is believed to have never officially been completed and Whelan retained overall control of the company.

Looked to ambitiously grow

After the agreement was made, Whelan pumped £2M into the firm’s development and Court-Johnston looked to ambitiously grow Pooles’ business with major supermarkets.

“We secured £10M new business in 12 months with Asda and Tesco and had retailer support to break into both the instore bakery and chilled areas over the coming few months,”​ he said.

Much of the business had been in own-label, although Pooles had struck a deal with Asda to launch the Pooles brand nationally in the freezer aisle, said Court-Johnston. He said he had been pursuing further business with Asda and Tesco.

In addition, he outlined plans to turn one of Pooles’ two manufacturing sites at Pemberton, Wigan, which he said had some of the latest equipment, into a high care facility.

Different direction

However, despite the contract wins and his plans, only a small amount of production capacity at Pooles was being used and Whelan chose to take the business in a different direction, he said.

Court-Johnston said it had been a “privilege”​ to run Pooles and to work with Dave Whelan - and he would now consider his next challenge within the food industry.

“I am naturally disappointed by the outcome, but the project was about creating jobs in a depressed area and whatever happens, the momentum we started will be realised I'm sure.”

Before working at Peter’s, Court-Johnston had been md of Northern Foods’ business Holland’s Pies and had been responsible for Northern's ready meals business.

Related topics Bakery

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