Management buyout deal at the Florida Group marks new era for Norwich shoe firm

Van Dal managing director Tony Linford in Norwich.  Photo: Bill Smith Van Dal managing director Tony Linford in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
2:14 PM

Norwich’s last remaining shoe manufacturer is to enter a new era after a deal was struck for it to be bought out by its management team.

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Bosses at the Florida Group, led by managing director Tony Linford, pictured, have agreed terms for the buy-out with chairman Simon Goodman and family, which has owned the company since it was founded by Mr Goodman’s grandfather Adelman Goodman in the early 1900s.

Staff were given news of the buyout move, which is being assisted with finance from Barclays, yesterday.

The Florida Group specialises in manufacturing and retailing high grade ladies’ branded footwear, predominantly under the Van Dal brand.

The group also distributes for Marc and is an agent for Pikolinos in the UK and Ireland. The company also manufactures shoes from its Dibden Road factory as part of its ‘Made in England’ range which are sold both in the UK and exported worldwide.

Mr Linford, who joined the business in 2008 and recruited the current management team, said: “The team and I have exciting plans to take the company forward.

“We plan to expand the business, taking advantage of the opportunities being presented by changes in the footwear industry. We will announce more detailed plans in due course.

“After so many years in the hands of the Goodman family, I feel privileged to be taking the helm of such a great business, and I am determined to build a future for the company which is as distinguished as its history to date.”

With Heads of Terms agreed, it is hoped that the buy-out will be completed in the next couple of months.

Mr Goodman will step down as chairman, although he will retain a stake in the company. As well as Mr Linford, the management team involved in the buy-out comprises head of product Claire Farmer, head of marketing Jason Larke, head of finance and HR Pamela Clarke, and head of logistics Anne-Mette Christensen.

Mr Goodman said: “As I have approached retirement, my primary concern has been to secure the future of the Florida Group and the people who work within the company. It has always been a strong possibility that Tony and the team would eventually buy the business, and I am delighted that this is now set to happen.

“The most important thing for me was the continuance of the Van Dal brand. It was started by my family and I have been the third generation in the business. I’ve been involved since the 1970s, so it’s naturally a wrench to come away from it.

“This is a really strong leadership team which is ideally placed to take the company into the future, and I step down in the knowledge that this great business is in safe hands. Tony has got some great ideas he wants to put forward.”

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