End of an era for Sherborne firm
THE future of a 500-year-old Sherborne family firm has been secured after a landmark takeover.
Plumbing and central heating merchants King's of Sherborne, based in Acreman Street, have been bought by Bristol-based firms Quality Gas Services UK Ltd and Gas World Ltd.
It marks the end of centuries of family ownership for the firm, which supplies services to private homes in Dorset, Devon and Somerset and to commercial companies under the H King and Sons Ltd brand.
The move is revealed in the same week 2,300 job losses were announced at plumbing and building firm Wolseley in Reading, after profits plummeted by 45 per cent.
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Former owner Russ King, who took over as director from his father in 1990, said the economic climate had nothing to do with his decision to sell.
"None of my family wanted to carry on the business. We had a big get-together last Christmas and I said to them 'you have to make up your minds', but they were not interested in continuing the company," said Mr King, aged 67.
"I am past retirement age. Somebody needed to carry on, either my family or somebody else. We spoke to a number of companies, but Gas World are the people who wanted to keep the firm separate, keep the name and all the staff together.
"The whole package fitted together so well. It seemed the best deal for the customers, for everyone in the company and for Sherborne."
New owners Paul Ford and John Lane, who took control last month, confirmed the company would remain the same and that jobs were safe. They also denied any moves to merge the business with the larger companies.
"Kings is a stand-alone company with a trading style that is all of its own," said Mr Ford, 41.
"From a customer or employee point of view, nothing has, or will, change. We will continue to provide the level of service that everybody in the area has come to expect from King's over the years. All the main infrastructure is staying within the company. It is a really good company with great ethics that is moving forward."
The local company, which last year saw a record turnover of £2M, has defied the credit crunch. In the past 40 years it has grown from a four-man firm to one boasting a 28-strong workforce.
The company originally started as blacksmiths, before moving into plumbing in the early part of the last century.
Plans are to invest in new vans, develop a company website, which will allow customers to book online, and become leading players in the green energy market.
"It will continue to grow. An ever increasing number of schools and big houses, old people's homes and swimming pools need specialist services," said Mr King.
"Paul and John are totally committed and working very hard to make sure they understand what our customers want and make King's a predominant force in the market place."
Mayor Dominic Elliott said it was sad to see an old family business end.
"Even going back to the days when it was a blacksmith, an awful lot of blacksmiths and plumbers have served their apprenticeships there. But it is good for Sherborne that the company is still going," he said.