Thomas J Fudge's is a premium food business with over one hundred years of wonderful heritage - all under family ownership prior to Livingbridge’s investment. Founded in 1916, Fudge’s originally delivered freshly baked bread to the local farming community. Today, the company’s premium biscuits, crackers and florentines are proudly stocked by retailers including Waitrose, Tesco, Morrisons and Marks & Spencer, as well as specialist outlets like Fortnum & Mason and Harvey Nichols.
Livingbridge chose to work with Drayton to secure a CEO for Fudge's because of their powerful combination of long developed Private Equity expertise in combination with their Consumer-sector dedicated proposition. These deep PE roots and Food category focus would be leveraged on behalf of Livingbridge and the Thomas J Fudge business.
The transition from long-standing private ownership to private equity control was always going to be a challenge for this heritage business. Livingbridge recognised that this transition, in tandem with their determined longer term aims for the brand, would be more safely secured with the appointment of an experienced CEO. This individual needed to offer category credibility - essentially, be appreciative of the idiosyncrasies of the bakery world - but also able to intelligently transfuse much needed process, accountability and confidence in to the business. The investment team at Livingbridge also had a strong preference for an individual with experience of private equity.
Livingbridge were keen to operate at pace and, concurrent with the CEO project, briefed Drayton to begin researching and identifying potential individuals for two newly created leadership roles of Operations Director and Commercial Director.
Drayton Partners Approach
Drayton really needed to understand the market challenges and opportunities for the Fudge's business but moreover the detailed strategic aspirations held by Livingbridge. To that end, the Drayton team invested significant time with the Livingbridge stakeholders but also sought out the insight offered by the Fudge's Chairman. The output from this was a bespoke, comprehensive project plan centred upon target businesses, target people and referral partners. A high tempo was key, and Drayton’s deep and vibrant network in the food sector ensured that this was maintained. Our project team, consisting of a dedicated in-house researcher and two senior partners, worked together closely, to deliver the key stages: identification, screening, assessment and validation. Ultimately, the shortlist consisted of five highly credible and proven CEO candidates for the Chairman and Livingbridge investors to meet. Two individuals were brought in to the final stage assessment which included meeting Livingbridge’s senior partner from the investment committee, with one candidate standing out.
The successful candidate started promptly and swiftly assimilated himself in to the business. Fudge’s incumbent management team responded well to his phase one ‘back-to-basics’ approach. This was combined with his insistence on personal accountability and rapid acceleration of fact based decision-making. Furthermore, the CEO recognised the need for frequent and transparent communication with the investors, helping to establish mutual trust and confidence. Livingbridge’s proactive approach to recruiting an Operations Director and Commercial Director also proved invaluable, with Drayton securing two outstanding individuals within four months of the CEO starting.