Horehound and scullcap work their magic as Potter's rescuers scoop millions

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The Independent Online

A father and son team who rescued Britain's oldest herbal medicines business from impending oblivion half a century ago shared a multimillion pound windfall yesterday after selling out to a Swiss pharmaceutical group.

Potter's Herbal Medicines, founded in 1812 by Henry Potter, has been bought by Galenica, Switzerland's biggest drug wholesaler. The Swiss group said the move would give it a springboard into the UK market, where the market for herbal medicines is booming.

Home to more than 30,000 employees in its heyday, Potter's was revived 50 years ago by Ernest Hampson. The 84-year-old chairman acquired Potter's at a time when it was facing an unprecedented onslaught from the then nascent pharmaceutical companies.

He later brought his two sons - Tony and David - on board and together the family built up the Wigan-based Potter's into a business with sales of £7m last year. It is the UK's biggest seller of licensed herbal medicines, with 135 products ranging from tabritis tablets to combat arthritis and vegetable cough remover, including active ingredients horehound and scullcap.

Potter's and Galenica declined to disclose the terms of the purchase, but sources close to the negotiations said the deal was worth about £15m.

Tony Hampson, 58, the managing director, will stay on to oversee the initial integration but admitted he was thinking of retiring. Galenica has offered David, the sales director, and their father consultancy roles, he added.

Tony Hampson said: "We decided we can't stay this size for ever. We felt the public interest was so great that it was a good idea to bring in a partner with some financial clout." He said Galenica had a "huge attraction" as a purchaser because it already owned a herbal medicines company in Switzerland. Potter's, which is jointly owned by the three Hampson family members, will remain based in Wigan, where it employs 45 people, he added.