Bamford closes deal to acquire Wrightbus out of administration

Businessman to employ 60 initially as he assesses prospects for Ballymena bus maker

Wrightbus workers celebrating as news broke earlier this month that the sale of Wrightbus to Jo Bamford had been agreed in principle. Photograph: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Wrightbus workers celebrating as news broke earlier this month that the sale of Wrightbus to Jo Bamford had been agreed in principle. Photograph: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

 

The Bamford Bus Company has confirmed it has acquired Wrightbus in Ballymena, Co Antrim. It will initially employ just 60 people while it determines the “size and composition of the workforce required for its future plans”.

The Wrights Group, which collapsed into administration last month, had previously employed 1,200 people.

No financial details relating to the sale have been disclosed by either the Bamford Bus Company or the joint administrators from Deloitte.

The administrators had retained 60 workers while they sought a buyer for the bus manufacturer.

The Bamford Bus Company is owned by Jo Bamford whose family founded JCB, one of the world’s biggest privately owned construction equipment companies. It said all 60 remaining workers would now transfer to its organisation.

It has also pledged to start recruiting “a world-class calibre of people” for the business.

Mr Bamford has taken up the role of executive chairman of Wrightbus, and Buta Atwal, who was previously a senior global executive with the JCB group, has been appointed as its chief executive.

The new management team have said they intend to focus on stabilising and rebuilding the business.

Mr Bamford said: “Wrightbus is a proud family business which is part of the fabric of Northern Ireland life and business. I am delighted to acquire such an established and respected brand. We can now start to look to the future and build on the excellent work that Sir William Wright and his family have done to develop the Wrightbus business.”

He also said he wanted to talk to former Wrightbus customers and suppliers to get a clearer picture of the Ballymena company’s current financial position and assess what may be needed “in order to build a viable and sustainable business”.

Market leader

According to Mr Atwal, the company has the “potential” to become a market leader again as the bus industry “looks to decarbonise”.

“Wrightbus has the potential to lead the way in this area given its track record in manufacturing state-of-the-art zero-emission hydrogen buses as well as electric and hybrid models,” Mr Atwal said.

“We must now focus on that opportunity and work hard as a team to move forward and rebuild this great business. Recruitment will begin over the coming weeks, and we are very excited about the prospect of recruiting a world-class calibre of people to the business.”

Under the terms of the acquisition, Bamford Bus Company has agreed to buy the business and assets of Wrights Group Ltd, Wrightbus Ltd, Wright En-Drive Ltd and Metallix Ltd.

Administrators from Deloitte said Bamford also retained an option to acquire the international division of Wrights Group Ltd.

The administrators confirmed separately that Jans Composites Ltd has agreed to buy Wright Composites Ltd.

Peter Allen, one of the joint administrators from Deloitte, added: “We are delighted to have reached a deal with Bamford Bus Company to secure the future of the business in Ballymena.

“After making extensive efforts to find a buyer, we are confident the new owner represents a bright future for a key employer in Northern Ireland.”

Trade union leaders in the North also hope that the Bamford Bus Company will steer the Ballymena firm in the right direction and that this will mean many of its former employees will get their old jobs back.

Unite’s regional officer for Wrightbus, George Brash, said the acquisitions represented “a huge vote of confidence in the workforce and in the future of Ballymena as a manufacturing centre”.