Employees are the bosses after founder sells organic farm in Peterborough to his staff

Staff at an organic farm in Peterborough have become the owners after much of the business was sold by its founder.

Friday, 22nd June 2018, 1:58 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd June 2018, 4:03 pm
Guy Singh-Watson, the founder of Riverford.

Guy Singh-Watson, the creator of Riverford Organic Farmers, which has a farm at Sacrewell, has sold 74 per cent of the business to his staff.

He said: “It would be so easy to sell to an external investor, but I don’t want the Riverford brand we have built up over the last 30 years to be used to pass off mediocre food.

“I want to prove that business can be used as a force for good, and that we are not all motivated by greed.”

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One of Riverford's renown boxes of veg.

Rather than buy shares, the staff’s 74 per cent stake will be held in a trust that is overseen by a board that will be involved in running Riverford alongside a staff council.

David Simpson, who helps to run the Peterborough farm, said: "Each week we deliver boxes of veg and other organic produce across Peterborough.

“Employee ownership means that our amazing customers can continue to receive this iconic service, unaffected, for many years to come.”

The Sacrewell site was the first sister farm to open after the original Riverford site in Devon was founded in 1987. The business has sites in Hampshire and Yorkshire. It employs 40 people in Peterborough and about 650 nationally.

Mr Singh-Watson sold the 74 per cent of Riverford, which has an HMRC-approved valuation of £22 million, to his staff for £6 million, one third of its market value, while retaining 26 per cent and an active role in the business.

A spokesman for the business said: "Under the deal, staff will own the Riverford name and associated reputation, most of its land, and all buildings and infrastructure.

"Over the next four years Riverford will pay Mr Singh-Watson £6 million in lump sum installments funded with the help of ethical bank Triodos.

"Profits made during this time will need to cover the interest on borrowing but not the lump sum itself - this is to ensure that Riverford profits are not wiped over the next four years."

Three years ago the Riverford veg box was named Ethical Product of the Decade by the Observer newspaper.