Two entrepreneurs who faced down a rocket launcher and armoury of AK47s in the Congo in their bid to make the perfect tonic water have sold part of their Fever-Tree drinks business in a deal which values it at £48m.
Charles Rolls and Tim Warrillow launched Fever-Tree only eight years ago, using £1m that Mr Rolls had made from turning around the spirits brand Plymouth gin and selling it to Absolut Vodka to create an upmarket range of mixers.
Now the duo have sold a 25 per cent stake in their range of drinks to the private-equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group, Lloyds Development Capital.
The company, whose range includes bitter lemon and ginger beer, had revenues of £16.2m last year, with a third of its sales in the UK. Mr Warrillow and Mr Rolls will stay on at Fever-Tree and use the cash to boost its presence in the UK and Spain and accelerate expansion into the United States. "It was a long process and we saw a bidding war erupt," Mr Warrillow said.
Mr Warrillow and Mr Rolls spent 18 months on development of their tonic water. They wanted to source their key ingredient, quinine, from a particular variety of fever tree, Cinchona ledgeriana. "Unfortunately the only remaining plantation of the original tree is in the eastern Congo, one of the most lawless places in the world," said Mr Warrillow, triggering their search through the country.