Morgan Motor Company sold: One of last British carmakers bought by Italian firm

The company has been under the control of one family for 110 years. Sean O’Grady reports

Wednesday 06 March 2019 16:36 GMT
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Nearly 200 workers are employed at the Malvern site
Nearly 200 workers are employed at the Malvern site (Photos Morgan Motor Company)

Britain’s last domestically owned carmaker has gone into foreign ownership.

After 110 years under the control of one family, the Morgan Motor Company is to become majority owned by an Italian venture capital group Investindustrial, which is backed by businessman Andrea Bonomi.

The Morgan family will be minority shareholders and “stewards” of the brand and its famous designs. For the first time in its history, the management team and all employees at Morgan will also become shareholders in the business.

The investment comes without loading any debt onto the business.

Founded in 1909, Morgan continues to handbuild premium sports cars with a classic design in its historic factory in Malvern, which is visited by more than 30,000 enthusiasts each year.

With revenues of £33.8m and net profit of £3.2m in 2018, the company sells around 700 cars per year comprising the familiar “Plus” sports cars and, latterly, a revived retro three-wheeler.

All the cars are manufactured using three core elements: ash, aluminium and leather, which are functional as well as traditional.

A major part of Morgan’s appeal has always been its “brutishness”, and the notion of a family-owned company that has defied mere fashion and purely commercial considerations.

Custom-built: a workshop where the cars are created
Custom-built: a workshop where the cars are created (Morgan Motor Company)

The new owners will need to be careful to maintain as much of that as they can, and keep up cordial relations with the loyal and active owners’ community, which has more than 5,000 members and 50 clubs globally.

However, sport car manufacture, as with the rest of the industry, is increasingly complex and capital-intensive, as the demands of safety, emissions and customer expectations become evermore exacting.

Finance, then, is key. As part of the transaction, and as a sign of its long-term faith in the company and the wider British automotive sector, Investindustrial promises to support Morgan to accelerate new product development, after the launch of the new Plus Six at the Geneva motor show – the first to adopt the company’s new CX-Generation architecture.

Polished performance: they are built using ash, aluminium and leather
Polished performance: they are built using ash, aluminium and leather (Morgan Motor Company)

Investindustrial also aim to increase global distribution and “broaden customers’ experience” with events, “enabling Morgan to fulfil its global potential as an iconic maker of handbuilt British sports cars”.

In supporting the company, Investindustrial also pledges to “leverage its vast experience and track record in the automotive industry, developed through a number of successful investments over the last 30 years, such as Aston Martin and Ducati”.

Dominic Riley, chairman of the Morgan Motor Company, said: “The past two years have been the most successful in our company’s 110-year history.

Italian job: the Morgan is now backed by a venture capital group
Italian job: the Morgan is now backed by a venture capital group (Morgan Motor Company)

“However, to really fulfil Morgan’s full potential and secure our long-term future, both the family and management team, felt it was essential to bring in a strategic partner.

“A partner that shares our vision for Morgan and has the expertise, financial resources and track record of success in the automotive world to make it happen. That partner is Investindustrial.”

Jill Price, granddaughter of founder Henry Frederick Stanley Morgan (“HFS” as he came to be known throughout the motoring world) and longest-serving Morgan family director, said: “Having very carefully considered all options for the future success of Morgan, the family concluded that this new ownership structure, and Mr Bonomi and Investindustrial, have the pedigree and resources to secure the long-term future of Morgan.

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“It was important for the family to retain a shareholding, and we are delighted that our loyal management team and workforce will now also have a stake in the business.”

There are no immediate changes to products or for the 190 staff in Malvern.

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