GOLD Coast business tycoons Tony and Christina Quinn have sold their chilled pet food business to a Sydney-based private equity firm for $410 million.
Quadrant Private Equity has entered into an agreement to partner with the founders of VIP Petfoods and maintain the existing management team to grow the business internationally.
The Quinns will remain significant shareholders, although Quadrant is expected to end up with at least 85 per cent of the business which employs 600 staff and produces 150,000 tonnes of pet food each year.
VIP Petfoods had humble beginnings 21 years ago, and Tony Quinn says he is proud of the growth of his 'baby'.
"It is just the natural progress of any commercial entity - it is like having a baby and watching it grow into kindergarten, watching it grow into school and watching it grow into a teenager, and at 21 years old they need to move out of the house and get married to somebody else and move on," says Quinn.
"I know that is not a great commercial idea but that is kind of how it feels - we have done a fairly good job of the deal and I think a bit of young blood and enthusiasm will do the world of good."
VIP has grown to be Australia's leading independent pet food company and the largest producer of fresh chilled pet food in the world.
VIP's head-office is a 7000sqm facility at Yatala, which produces pet food and distributes locally and overseas.
Quinn says the decision to put the business on the market was made in December 2014 with discussions with Quadrant beginning in February this year.
"Over the years there have been many people approach us from time to time and, to be honest, some of them have not been worth dealing with," says Quinn.
"But Quadrant was very professional, very honourable and got on with the job. I am retaining a fairly reasonable shareholding because I believe in what they are doing and I think they will make a success of the business.
"Quadrant raced to the finish line quicker than anybody and, although it is fair to say there were a few suitors from all walks of life, Quadrant was the chosen one."
Quinn predicts that under Quadrants leadership, VIP will be double its business in three to five years.
The Quinn family purchased iconic chocolate group Darrell Lea in 2012 and were behind the aggressive cost cuttings that helped save the business and return it to profit.
Quinn says the confectionary maker continues to grow from strength to strength and has big plans in 2015 - plans that have nothing to do with the sale of VIP.
"Everybody assumes that I am just going to chuck the money into Darrell Lea, but Darrell Lea is a business on its own, it has come of age and has plans separate to VIP," says Quinn.
"The first year of Darrell Lea we had to fix the business which was broken, the second year we had to move into the brand new state-of-the-art factory in Sydney, so now in the third year we are ready to come out with a whole new range of new products.
"I think you will see a lot of activity from the Darrell Lea camp towards the end of this year, which is really nothing to do with the sale of VIP."
Quinn says he plans to spend more time with his eight grandchildren, work as a coach to those in the VIP business and has several motorsports interests in Australia and New Zealand.
Managing director of Quadrant Chris Hadley says VIP has built up an impressive position in the Australian pet food industry and has established a leading manufacturing capability.
"We believe there are opportunities to further implement growth and strategic initiatives to enhance the brand and product in Australia and throughout the world," says Hadley.
Justin Ryan, director of Quadrant, adds that Quadrant has been impressed with Quinn and the management team he has built and their combined vision for the future.
"We are excited to have the opportunity to work with them to accelerate the next phase of growth for the VIP business," he says.
"With continuing trends to premiumisation and innovation in the pet industry, we believe VIP is well placed to benefit and become a leading pet food company globally."
The existing VIP management team, including Rex Devantier and Kent Quinn, will stay on.
Other recent deals by Quadrant include Canberra Data Centres and Zip Water.
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