BGF invests in luxury fitted furniture business Canburg

Investment news

Canburg, owner of two of the world’s most renowned luxury fitted furniture businesses – Smallbone of Devizes and Mark Wilkinson Furniture – secured £8m capital investment from BGF in September 2014. BGF took a 20% stake in the business enabling the group to accelerate its UK and international growth strategy. This will build on the success and vision that has seen its products take centre stage in the world’s most exclusive developments, becoming the choice of A-List celebrities such as Dustin Hoffman, Sir Elton John and Oprah Winfrey.

It will also create up to 40 jobs at the group’s UK showrooms and the workshop in Devizes, Wiltshire, where all its products are hand-made by 170 experienced craftsmen and women. Further jobs will be created overseas.

CEO Leo Caplan established Canburg in 2009 to purchase Smallbone and Mark Wilkinson Furniture. The British entrepreneur committed more than £10 million to the long-established businesses, enabling them to return to profitability.

“This is a really exciting time for Canburg,” said CEO Leo Caplan. “I first invested in these businesses because of my passion for the luxury furniture they both make. The fact that the furniture is hand made in the UK and supplied globally is a fantastic testament to our cabinet-making heritage. I have inherited a love of timber as my grandfather was a timber merchant. Canburg is proud of its highly skilled workforce, many of whom have been with the companies for decades. I started considering the strategic options for the group almost a year ago after being approached by prospective buyers, and instructed Cavendish Corporate Finance to assess these. I wasn’t looking to sell but started exploring how best to take the business to the next level. The process reminded me why I fell in love with these companies in the first place and the fantastic opportunities that are available.

“Perhaps most exciting are the opportunities overseas, where Canburg already generates a third of its revenues thanks to the reputation we have gained with customers in the US and elsewhere. I am delighted that in BGF we have found the perfect long-term partner to help us reach our full potential and create the value that clearly exists in this business. I am confident that, over the next five years, we can grow the business from its current valuation of over £50 million (post investment) to a global luxury group worth in excess of £500 million.”

Smallbone is the ultimate in bespoke cabinetry, founded on a time-honoured British craft tradition, with a passion for quality and design. Internationally recognised as the leading global luxury kitchen company, it has revolutionised the form of kitchens, establish enduring fashions and been instrumental in the kitchen’s metamorphosis from cooking space to social hub.

Mark Wilkinson Furniture has set the style icons for classic and contemporary furniture for over three decades and has brought fitted furniture for the kitchen and rooms throughout the home into the highest echelons of fine luxury living.

The group has multiple routes to market, selling directly to high net worth customers through showrooms, in partnership with in-market dealerships, as well as selling to developers of luxury properties in leading locations such as New York City.

The heritage and prestige of the group has resonance with discerning customers throughout the world. Since 2009, the group has substantially grown its presence in North America and the Middle East, winning prestigious contracts for luxury apartment developments that include ONE57, the most expensive residential building in New York overlooking Central Park (135 apartments ranging from $17 million to $115 million), Walker Tower Chelsea New York (52 apartments ranging from $8.5 million to $60 million) and 530 Park Avenue New York (100 apartments ranging from $3 million to $25 million). The group now generates a third of its sales from international customers, who are attracted by inspirational design and British craftsmanship. Canburg’s performance in international markets resulted in the company receiving endorsement from the Minister for Trade and Investment, Lord Livingston.

BGF’s commitment of capital and wider support will enable Canburg to further expand its domestic and international reach and will support Leo Caplan’s ambitions to create a global luxury group.

Paul Oldham, Regional Director at BGF, said: “Smallbone and Mark Wilkinson Furniture represent the highest standards of British design and manufacturing, which are held in high esteem all over the world. Leo and his management team have very successfully capitalised on this, building an impressive international reputation and broad customer base. They have looked to BGF to put investment behind their ambition to create a truly global business; we share this vision and over the next few years fully expect to see Canburg take a dominant role among a select group of successful British design and manufacturing businesses operating on the international stage.

“Too often we see UK entrepreneurs sell out of their businesses prematurely – before they have really achieved full potential. This does not have to be the case as Leo and his team at Canburg are demonstrating. It is in these situations that BGF investment can make a difference, helping entrepreneurs to realise their ambitions in full.”

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