A regional accountancy network has embarked on a new era after sealing a management buyout (MBO).

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Norwich-based TaxAssist has been bought for an undisclosed sum in a deal that will see the business 32pc owned by franchisees, 53pc by senior managers and 15pc by business partners.

The company – which provides tax advice to small businesses – believes it could be the first time in UK history that franchisees have been a key part of a company MBO.

It comes as John Westgarth, who founded the business in 1995, took the decision to retire as chairman and director.

Karl Sandall, chief executive, said: “We believe this is a first in the UK and internationally. Franchise operations have been bought by their management teams, but as far as we are aware never in partnership with their franchisees.

“More than half of our network, including franchisees and their staff, have invested in the business and many more have expressed an interest in buying shares in the future as they are placed on our internal market.”

TaxAssist employs more than 30 people at its support centre on Thorpe Road, with 700 staff employed in its 190 franchises across the country. Together, the overall business has a fee income of £30m.

“We’ve enjoyed year-on-year growth, even through the recession, to build a client base of nearly 50,000 small businesses and now we’ve expanded internationally,” he added.

“Our network of franchisees has tremendous faith in the business model and its continued growth and when the opportunity arose to invest in the whole franchise, we had a fantastic response.”

Joining Mr Sandall in the buyout are directors Sarah Robertson and Phil Sullivan. They will be supported on the board by two non-executive directors, John Chambers, corporate and commercial consultant, and East Anglian solicitors Ashton KCJ representing the interests of franchisees.

Do you have a business story? Contact Ben Woods on 01603 772426 or email ben.woods@archant.co.uk

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