One of the best-known Australian retail brands, Clark Rubber, has been sold to a group comprising John Weste, Ed Plowman and Graeme Goldman, as CRG Operations Pty Ltd acquired the Clark Rubber and Luxafoam group effective September 30.
Clark Rubber owner since 2000 and founder of the franchise business, Chris Malcolm, will stay on as a business consultant for the next 12 months. CEO Anthony Grice and the current management team will continue to lead the business going forward, and the existing staff will remain unchanged.
Malcolm says that over a number of years he been approached by parties wanting to purchase the business, but he had not pursued or accepted those offers. However, following discussions with his children where it was decided that they did not wish to inherit the business, he formally placed the business on the market.
“Following that decision, we have had two parties wanting to acquire the business this year. I made the decision to move forward, after due diligence, with selling the business to a group comprising John Weste, Ed Plowman and Graeme Goldman,” he says.
“Building on the solid foundations in place, I am certain that this team, with the support of current management, will take Clark Rubber to its next stage of growth and success as they have expressed their desire to be long term operators of the business.”
Malcolm says he has seen in them an enthusiasm for the business which he views as very important, especially as the Clark Rubber brand celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2021.
“I am continuing as a consultant to the business for the next 12 months and will remain as a shareholder for the next three years,” he says. “I believe this will ensure a smooth, orderly, stable and successful transition to Edward, Graeme and John, that will benefit the business, staff, franchisees and suppliers.”
He says that the new owners will be introducing a synergistic fourth product category which will increase the sales base.
“We have also just embarked on a new initiative being the pool van franchises as independently owned franchises, which is an exciting evolution for our Group,” he says.
The new owners
20+ years of experience in Investment and Fund Management, Debt and Equity Capital Markets, mostly Australian midmarket industrials. Plowman draws specific retail experience from his direct association with the various listed specialty retailers which engaged broker channels for growth capital, and most recently via his direct association with Private Debt financing for midmarket corporate lends.
25+ years of direct experience relevant to operating and growing businesses like Clark Rubber, including but not limited to brand and brand development, wholesale, marketing, retailers/franchisees engagement, warehousing and distribution, supply chain and logistics. Goldman is a Chartered Accountant and has both CEO and CFO experience. Most notably as the Managing Director of the Swatch Group Australia with deep knowledge of retailing in Australia and abroad.
Weste has over 30 years’ international business experience as an executive with some of the world’s leading consulting and advisory firms. He is a former Partner at Arthur Andersen having led the business consulting firms in Central and Eastern Europe and Australia over a 14-year career. He also has significant experience across Asia and India while working with TCS and the Gartner Group. He designed and led major transformation projects around the globe for a multitude of retail-based companies including Tesco, Kmart, Carrefour, Marks & Spencer, Planet Hollywood, Sydney Olympic Park, Parramatta Stadium, Mondelez, AGIP, Shell, Repco, Wickes (UK), GlaxoSmithKline, DAF Trucks, Reckitt Benckiser, and many of the world’s major retail banking groups. He is an accomplished Non-Executive Director having held positions with the Hocking Stuart Real Estate Group, Hudson Medical Research Institute, and Next Address, and is currently Managing Partner at C2 Venture Capital. He has an MBA from Melbourne University and BSc from Adelaide University.
Clark Rubber Group
Clark Rubber is a successful Australian retailer with a history dating back to 1946. With 60 stores nationally, the stores are specialists in pools, foam and rubber providing a unique place in the Australian retail market. With such a broad product range, customers are all different whether it be young families, tradies, hobbyists and even commercial business customers.
The Clark Rubber story began in 1946 when two men, Charlesworth and Clark formed a partnership to establish Clark Matting and Rubber. The business grew quickly, and in 1951 was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. In 1961, the name was changed to Clark Rubber Stores.
In 1982, Clark Rubber was bought by the Adsteam Group, which continued to operate the business until 1994. At this point, the Clark Rubber name and logo were sold to Vita Pacific, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pacific Dunlop, and the network of stores was closed down.
It was at this time that Chris Malcolm, a veteran of Australian retailing, stepped in. After lengthy negotiations, he licensed the Clark Rubber brand from Vita Pacific. Deciding that the franchise model was the best way to grow an already-strong brand, the first Clark Rubber store re-opened in Nunawading, Victoria in 1995. By 1998, the 50th store had opened and Clark Rubber was once again one of the best recognised brands in Australian retail. In 2000, Chris Malcolm bought the Clark Rubber brand from Pacific Dunlop.
The store network continued to grow, and in 2003 Clark Rubber was recognised as the Franchise Council of Australia’s Franchisor of the Year in the ‘Entry Capital Over $200,000’ category. In the same year, Chris Malcolm was inducted into the Franchise Council of Australia’s ‘Hall of Fame. Three years later, Clark Rubber was awarded the Franchise Council of Australia’s highest honour, Franchisor of the Year.