Godfreys co-founder wins back company

By Nick Hall | 25 Jun 2018 View comments

Iconic Australian vacuum cleaner retailer, Godfreys has announced that co-founder John Johnston has secured a 91 per cent stake in the group ahead of his 100th birthday.

The 99-year-old co-founder made a takeover bid for the company in April through his family-owned Arcade Finance.

Johnston also aims to take the business off the ASX, undertake and overhaul and set about rebuilding its failing fortunes.

“Arcade intends to de-list Godfreys from the Australian Securities Exchange and continue to operate it as a private company,” Arcade said in a statement.

This is big news for the company’s over 200 stores, around one third of which are franchises, with the move signalling significant change for the group.

Johnston first launched Godfreys, which operate across Australia and New Zealand, with Godfrey Cohen in the 1930s, more than eight decades ago, before it was snapped up by private equity investors CCMP Capital Asia and Pacific Equity Partners for around $300 million in 2006.

In May, the 99-year-old won over two major shareholders who agreed to sell their stakes to him after he increased his bid for the struggling company to $13.7 million, from $13.1 million.

Arcade Finance has now secured 91.21 per cent of the company’s shares and will proceed with the compulsory acquisition of the remaining shares.

Since listing in 2014 with an issue price of $2.75, Godfreys has been plagued by falling sales, multiple changes of senior management, and a sustained slide in share price to an all-time low of 21 cents in April.

In May, Godfreys blamed its television ads for a big dive in sales that has forced the vacuum cleaner retailer to cut its full-year earnings guidance for the second time in two weeks.

In the past, the ads have been a key component of Godfreys’ national advertising calendar, which features as a major selling point in the company’s potential franchisee kit.

The retailer warned it is likely to breach loan covenants after like-for-like sales for the past two weeks were 27 per cent lower than the same time last year.

John Hardy, the man who featured in vacuum cleaner retailer Godfreys’ famous bowling ball TV ads, will return as chief executive of the company for a third time.

Hardy, who was chief executive of Godfreys from 1983 to 2010 and again from mid-2016 to 2017, was last month appointed as interim chief executive at the company.

This article first appeared on Inside Retail, a sibling publication to Inside Franchise Business.