19 Mar Staff celebrate as coach company saved
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Jobs secure as long-established Lincolnshire coach and bus operator is saved, with promise of more local jobs to come in future growth plans.
One of Lincolnshire’s best-loved coach companies has been saved.
A private investor has stepped in to secure the future of A C Williams Coaches, in a move which prompted celebrations by the 25 drivers, mechanics and office staff after learning their jobs were safe.
Coach and bus operator A C Williams was established nearly 60 years ago in Ancaster and despite a healthy demand for bookings, its future was threatened following the closure of its sister business in December, the A C Williams Renault car dealership.
Now its future is guaranteed, which is good news for customers who made bookings for future trips and holidays, as deposits will be safe and trips will take place as planned.
The company, which numbers Harlaxton College, The Red Arrows and football clubs Lincoln City and Boston United among its regular coach customers, has received a cash and management injection from investor Glen Pratt, who wants to save jobs by turning round small family-owned companies. He has plans to build the business through employee profit sharing and the partnership principles which have proved so successful for John Lewis.
As executive chairman of the company, Glen Pratt, age 39, a successful investment fund manager in London, will be keeping not just the A C Williams family name, but the Williams’ family involvement as well, with former directors David Williams and Alison Parker fulfilling non-managerial roles within the company.
The family approach will be expanded further, with financial accountant David Pratt joining his brother Glen on the board as finance director.
The company started out by transporting just three children to school from an outlying farm, but it is now one of the leading providers of school transport in the county, holding major contracts with Lincolnshire County Council, transporting 500 children every day. It also runs a busy schedule of day trips and holidays, and serves many local colleges, sports clubs and businesses including Norbert Dentressangle, formerly Christian Salvesen. The company’s 20-strong coach and bus fleet covers a wide range of transportation solutions, including state of the art executive coaches, double decker school buses, together with specially modified vehicles which offer tables or wheelchair access.
Under the new leadership, the company is set to expand and hopes to create more jobs in the local community in coming years.
Said Glen Pratt: “A C Williams is now fully funded for a long term future and the whole team is very excited at the prospect, with many new plans set to go ahead against the secure backing that’s in place. Those plans will build on the values the company is known for – safety, reliability, comfort and value for money.”
Former managing director David Williams said: “I am delighted that jobs will be saved and that the A C Williams name will continue, in what promises to be a bright future for the company.”
Peter Blair, a partner in the Nottingham office of corporate recovery specialists Begbies Traynor, was appointed joint administrator of A C Williams in December. He said: “We are pleased to have saved jobs and maintained important services in Lincolnshire. We are grateful for the support and tenacity of the A C Williams staff during difficult circumstances, and that we were able to retain those staff. We wish the new venture every success for the future.”
Glen Pratt added: “It’s a company with a strong heart and has been picking up new work even during the administration period, because people want to deal with A C Williams. There’s a real sense of goodwill. The entire team is looking forward to serving the people of Lincolnshire. ”
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Born in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, Glen Pratt is currently a Partner with a London-based fund management company, where he is a UK portfolio manager. He joined Fidelity, the world’s biggest investment house, direct from Nottingham University where he read economics, becoming one of their youngest ever fund managers at 25, and was managing a £2bn portfolio of client funds by his early 30s.
A C Williams was established in Ancaster in 1953, as a motor engineer and agricultural machinery repair business. Its first contract was transporting three children from a local farm to Ancaster Primary School. Now the company transports 500 children every day. It also runs many leisure trips and holidays for local people, travelling throughout the UK and Europe, as well as providing transport for local football teams, service personnel and academic institutions. A fleet of 20 buses, coaches and minibuses range from a 75-seater Sykliner double decker executive coach to specially modified vehicles which offer tables or wheelchair access.