Shields Automotive founder in £8.75m sale to Lookers

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SHIELDS Automotive founder Joe O’Donnell is retiring after 27 years in the industry, having sold his Glasgow-based Land Rover franchise to Lookers in a £8.75 million cash deal.

The 58-year-old owned 94 per cent of the business, so he will pocket the lion’s share of the proceeds. Minority shareholders included Shields finance director Elspeth Macnaughton and Stewart MacLaren, the group’s former director of operations.

The deal comes three years after O’Donnell’s retreat from the multi-franchise car sites that led to Shields racking up losses of £1.2m in 2009. The firm sold its Toyota operations to Arnold Clark in 2011, a year after Aim-quoted Vertu Motors bought its dual-franchised Ford and Mazda sites in Glasgow and Hamilton for £2.5m. As a result, profits at Shields more than doubled last year to £351,000 on turnover of £20.5m.

Speaking yesterday from the Kennishead Road Land Rover showroom, O’Donnell said he would now look at property and other strategic personal investments, while also indulging his passion for fly fishing. With none of his children set to join the business, it seemed the appropriate time to sell up.

He said he also valued the “family business” ethos at Manchester-based Lookers despite it being one of the UK’s largest retail motor groups. Shields currently employs 35 people.

Lookers already has a strong presence in Scotland with its Lomond Audi and Taggarts businesses. Chief executive Peter Jones said the Shields acquisition was “an important development in the group’s representation of the Land Rover brand”.