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Book group to return to family name after £6m deal goes through

Managing director Justin Adams at Bertram Books
Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Managing director Justin Adams at Bertram Books Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

A Norwich-based book group which was founded in a chicken shed will return to its traditional family name after a deal with a private equity group finally got over the line.

Elsie Bertram founder of Bertram Books in October 1989. Photo: Archant LibraryElsie Bertram founder of Bertram Books in October 1989. Photo: Archant Library

Connect Books will revert to the Bertram Group name after it was acquired by German investment house Aurelius Equity Opportunities in a £6m deal.

The group includes Bertrams, Dawson Books, Bertram Library Services and Wordery.

Despite an agreement being announced between owner Connect Group and Aurelius in December for the sale for an initial £10.6m, the deal hit a snag when Aurelius said it could not complete the purchase due to being unable to finance it.

But today the companies revealed they had reached terms for a cut-price deal.

Broadland Business Park-based Bertrams, which was founded by Elsie Bertram in 1968, is a wholesaler of books and stocks international publishers as well as many independents.

Aurelius said it would aim to drive efficiencies, accelerate growth and expand the business’s international footprint as well as its e-commerce platform.

Dirk Markus, chief executive of Aurelius, said: “Despite some challenges, we are very pleased to have completed a deal that is mutually beneficial to all parties.

“Connect Books is an exciting business and one for which Aurelius’ specialism is very well suited.

“We look forward to working with the company to provide the financial and operational support that will allow the business to reach its full potential.”

Connect had announced in its preliminary results in October that the books division was no longer part of its growth strategy.

Connect Group chief executive Mark Cashmore said: “The disposal will allow the group to concentrate on its transformation strategy while ensuring the books business is able to prosper under new and focused ownership.”

Bertram Group managing director Justin Adams said he was pleased a deal had been agreed and was confident the business would benefit from Aurelius’s operational capabilities as it continued it transformation strategy.

The Bertram Group, which employs 519 people in Norwich, is a member of the EDP/EADT Top 100 list of largest companies by turnover in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Aurelius acquired Norwich’s Briar Chemicals in 2012.

A history of Bertrams

Bertram Books started out in a chicken shed in the garden of a Norwich home before blossoming into the second-largest wholesaler of books in the UK.

It was founded by Elsie Bertram along with her son Kip in 1968 after she had started storing books for a publisher.

In 1971 it moved into rented warehouse space and began to promise next-day delivery up and down the country.

By 1999, when the company was sold out of the family, Mrs Bertram was 86 and the company employed more than 700 staff with a turnover of £70m.

In 2004 Bertrams, the year after Mrs Bertram’s death, moved to its current Norwich headquarters and in 2007 it was bought by the ill-fated Woolworths Group.

In 2009 Woolworths entered administration and Bertrams soon followed, leading Smiths News to purchase it in an £8.6m swoop. Smiths was rebranded as Connect Group in 2014 with Bertram Group becoming Connect Books.

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