New ‘era of growth’ for Ipswich-based plant hire firm Fork Rent

Trudi Nicholls with her brother Guy.

Trudi Nicholls with her brother Guy.

A family-owned East Anglian plant hire firm is now under new ownership, it has emerged.

Guy Nicholls (left) with his father Percy (right) of Fork Rent

Guy Nicholls (left) with his father Percy (right) of Fork Rent

Fork Rent, which is based at Felixstowe Road, Ipswich, and employs 110 staff, has been snapped up by investors keen to grow the company. It is understood no jobs are at risk and that Steve Corcoran, its new chief executive, who has taken on the business with the help of investors, will be looking to expand it alongside another recent purchase, London-based firm, One Call Plant Hire, which has around 120 employees.

Fork Rent was launched in by 1972 ? originally under the name Guy’s Hire ? by Guy Nicholls, who became chairman of the company, and he was later joined in the business by his sister, Trudi, also a director.

Their father, the late Percy Nicholls, had launched a truck rental business, out of which Trucks R Us developed, in the mid-1960s, and the brother-and-sister team took over both businesses when he died, about 17 years ago.

It is understood that Fork Rent’s sister companies, Trucks R Us and Tippers R Us, remain in family hands.

Fork Rent has grown rapidly with 2014/15 turnover standing at around £33.5million - similar to One Call - and has continued to go from strength to strength.

In a message on Twitter, Guy Nicholls said: “After 40 years now, @Forkrent is not mine. I wish the new owners the best of success for the future.”

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He added: “I would like to thank my former employees and work colleagues for helping build such a great company.”

He paid tribute to his late father, Percy, saying: “He, of course, started it and gave an incredible education in business”.

He also tweeted a statement from Fork Rent and One Call Plant Hire, stating the two companies were now under new management “ushering in a new era of growth and opportunity for everyone involved”.

“The new company, yet to be formally named, will consolidate the two existing One Call and Fork-Rent brands,” it said.

“The consolidation will create the UK’s leading operator in two complementary sectors of the heavy construction market (excavators and telehandlers).

The new company, which is expected to make an official statement on the deal next week, said it would “immediately be one of the UK’s Top 10 hire companies and top three in the field of self drive plant”.

“It’s all about jobs and growth,” a source close to the new firm said.

“It (Fork Rent) is a very well run, very well regarded local business,” the source added, but needed a corporate skillset to take it to even greater heights.

Steve Corcoran, from London, left his job as chief executive of Speedy Hire, a £350m turnover tool hire firm, in January 2014 after nine years in the role. He has more than 30 years’ experience in the sector, including 13 years on the board at Speedy Hire.

Fork Rent featured in last year’s annual Sunday Times BDO Profit Track 100 league table, where it was ranked 77th, with annual profit of £6.82m representing average annual growth of 48.61% over the previous three years.

From the 1980s, the firm grew steadily, first by supplying the larger building firms locally, then regionally and nationally.

In 2011, Guy and Trudi brought in Elaine Miller as managing director, to support the further development of the business which, despite the ongoing recession at that time, was already achieving significant year-on-year growth. It is understood that she will be staying on under the new owners.

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