Four years ago, BWG was in a spot of bother, with piles of debt and vulture funds looking to finish it off and sell its organs to the highest bidder. Enter – as you are well aware – SPAR South Africa, which bought the business for €55m, lock, stock, barrel and €130m worth of debt. In 2017, BWG showed turnover of €1.4bn, with operating profit of €33.3m, and they’re expecting profit growth in the double digits this year. “[SPAR] would tell you that we've outperformed, above their expectations, which is great because from their perspective it was a big move for South Africa to invest in Ireland," says ebullient Irish CEO Leo “The CEO” Crawford. After the SPAR transaction, BWG went on to acquire rival Londis, and have just been given the nod by the authorities to buy 4 Aces, a supplier to other rival Gala, and who knows whether Gala itself might not be next. Certainly Mr Crawford isn’t saying.
Comment: The gift that keeps on giving for SPAR, whose move to diversify at a critical time will surely find a place of honour on the business’ figurative mantelpiece one day.