ECI exits rhubarb generating a 3.1x return

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ECI Partners today announces the sale of our investment in rhubarb to Livingbridge generating a multiple of 3.1x cost to investors and a 32% IRR. 

PB Jacobse, CEO of rhubarb, said:

“We have really enjoyed working with ECI to build and grow rhubarb and are now very excited about the next stage of our development. We are ideally positioned to benefit from positive market trends and current consumer tastes and, with a good level of visibility over our existing contracts, as well as a strong pipeline of new growth opportunities, we are confident of building on the strong momentum we have generated to date.”

The successful exit of rhubarb is another example of how we collaborate with management teams, combining their knowledge with our experience and working together to build successful businesses. This is our fourth exit of 2016 following on from Citation, Kelvin Hughes Chartco and Reed & Mackay. rhubarb is the seventh exit from ECI 9; all seven achieved over 3x money taking the overall realised return of the fund to 4.4x. 

Originally established in 1996 as an events business, rhubarb expanded its activities in 2003 to include longer-term contracts at iconic, high footfall locations, initially by providing high-end catering at Ascot Racecourse. 

Today, the company operates at venues including the Sky Garden at the “Walkie Talkie” building in London, the Royal Albert Hall and events at the Goodwood Estate. It also provides bespoke catering solutions at around 600 events per year for a broad range of clients, from high profile charity galas for 2,000 guests to small, intimate dinners in country venues. rhubarb will also be opening a flagship restaurant at the recently renovated Centre Point building in late 2017, adding to its Central London portfolio. 

With offices in London and Surrey, the firm now employs 250 full time members of staff alongside over 900 temporary staff. 

ECI invested in rhubarb in 2012 for a minority stake to support the team in growing the business and take advantage of the considerable number of business development opportunities. Highlights over the period include:

  • After winning the contract to operate the restaurants and bars in Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street, rhubarb has delivered one of the most exciting new venues in London for the 1 million annual visitors
  • rhubarb has grown revenue and average spend per head by 87% at the Royal Albert Hall compared to the performance of the previous contractor, allowing the charity which runs the Royal Albert Hall to invest more in entertaining the 1.7m annual visitors
  • In 2015, the Earl of March selected rhubarb to cater for his 800,000 annual visitors at events such as Qatar Goodwood Festival (popularly known as Glorious Goodwood), Goodwood Revival and the Festival of Speed
  • Total revenue at rhubarb has more than doubled since ECI’s investment (a CAGR of 21%)
  • In 2016, the team at rhubarb won the team of the year at the BVCA Management Team Awards in the South East

It has been fantastic to work with PB and all the team at rhubarb. Their talent and hard work combined with our experience of helping growth companies has created a wonderful business, with strong growth dynamics and a consistently premium offering. We look forward to staying in touch as they continue to host future ECI events.

Paul McCreadie 

Partner at ECI

About the author

Paul McCreadie

"I have been a member of ECI’s Investment Team since 2008, working with management teams from our initial investment all the way through to when we sell our stake. That means I get to meet great founders and management teams and support them to successfully deliver their vision."

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