Pool cloth company returns to British ownership

09/11/2011

Twenty years after it was bought by US-based Milliken, the UK textile business Milliken Woollen Speciality Products has returned to British ownership.

The business has been named WSP Textiles, with three senior members of the management team joining a new board of directors. The former Milliken Woollen Specialty Products management team who have seats on the board are the new chief executive David Smith, sales director Duncan Kettell (pictured) and manufacturing director Malcolm Fallows. They will be joined by non-executive chairman Michael Henderson, a former director of the textile conglomerate Coats Viyella.

The acquisition was arranged by Vespa Capital, a private equity firm that helps management teams acquire and develop the businesses they manage, and the board is completed by Vespa Capital partners Nigel Hammond and Matt Lyons.

Commenting on the investment, Nigel Hammond said: “We believe the number of people playing tennis and snooker will increase around the world, particularly in Asia, and this will underpin the company’s growth prospects.”

The original company had made cloth since the 13th century and the WSP acronym recognises the founding mill owners, Messrs Winterbotham, Strachan and Playne. Today the Strachan brand dominates the snooker market while Playne tennis ball cloth can be found on Dunlop, Wilson, Head, Tretorn and Babolat tennis balls used at many tournaments including Wimbledon and the French Open.

Chief executive David Smith added: “All 160 of our highly-skilled employees have been informed their jobs are safe as we work closely as a team to ensure the business continues to prosper.”

by Helen Fletcher

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