Pilot pockets £50m from flotation of Dyno-Rod

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The Independent Online

Jim Zockoll, the transatlantic pilot who founded the drain clearing business Dyno-Rod 40 years ago, is to pocket £50m from its sale and flotation next month.

Jim Zockoll, the transatlantic pilot who founded the drain clearing business Dyno-Rod 40 years ago, is to pocket £50m from its sale and flotation next month.

More than 20 pilots, stewardesses and mechanics who were colleagues of Mr Zockoll at Pan Am will share a further £10m between them. Dyno Group, a newly formed company, is paying £60.5m for the business, which has expanded from drains into plumbing, locksmithing and rat catching.

"I'm just too damn old," Mr Zockoll, 74, said yesterday. "I have been ready to go for the last few years but, although I have had a few approaches, no one has been able to raise the money until now."

Dyno Group plans to raise £48m from selling shares to help pay for the acquisition, with the rest funded by debt. It promises to expand franchises such as Dyno Locks and Dyno Plumbing.

Mr Zockoll founded Dyno-Rod in south London in 1963, having realised that there were no UK operators using electromechanical machines to unblock drains - machines that were widely available in his native United States.

At the time, he was flying to Britain two or three times a month, when his hotel suffered a blocked drain.

"The plumber couldn't clear it, so they had to call builders, who couldn't do it over Christmas, were going to have to dig up the dancefloor to get to the drains, and were going to charge 40,000 guineas [£42,000 in decimal currency] .

"I had some drain equipment in the house, so I offered to fly it over for 5,000 guineas and I did the job in about an hour and a half."

Mr Zockoll, nicknamed the Drain Brain, invested £20,000 to establish Dyno-Rod and he and his family own 85 per cent. The other 15 per cent is shared between other early investors, mainly staff from Pan Am with whom he has an annual reunion, fishing in Florida. They have backed many of Mr Zockoll's business ventures, which have included ice cream parlours in Germany and a business creating phone numbers from words made up of letters on phone keypads.

"Maybe three out of 10 have been successful," he said, adding that, despite these business interests, he continued flying for Pan Am until 1981 out of a feeling of "insecurity".

Dyno-Rod has grown into a group of businesses with annual revenues of £56m across its 167 franchises, generating £12m of franchise fees and £4.5m of earnings, before interest and tax, for the central company.

Mr Zockoll said: "I shall miss it in a sentimental way, and my heart will still skip when I see a Dyno van, but I won't miss coming into the office every day. I am not a salesperson, I am not into IT, and the business is changing and needs both of those things now."

Kevin Mahoney, the chief executive of Dyno Group, is a former executive of British Gas, one of Dyno-Rod's biggest single customers. The business has in recent years been run for cash to fund new businesses for Mr Zockoll's sons, he said. "It just needs a bit of tender loving care and I am sure we can get strong growth. Almost half the homes in the UK are more than 50 years old so, with an ageing drainage infrastructure, rebuilding work is picking up, largely driven by the insurers."

The new management team is paying a discounted £500,000 for £2.5m worth of shares in the new Dyno Group, and will own up to 14 per cent when performance-related share plans are added in. The company will initially list on AIM, but said yesterday that it plans to move to the main market as soon as possible. The Zockoll family will have a 10 per cent stake.