Renowned Somerset food business Jon Thorner’s Ltd is entering a new chapter in its history as founder and owner Jon Thorner – who started the business as a humble farm shop way back in 1979 – has agreed a share sale of 50% of the company to two food industry investors.

Advised by Stephens Scown LLP, the deal sees Jon Thorner, the sole shareholder in the business, selling half of his stake to father and son Richard and Thomas Hunt. The purchasers are acting in a private capacity – but are well-known as Managing Director and Operations Director respectively of thriving Dorset-based food wholesaler Hunt’s Foodservice Ltd.

Jon Thorner’s sells and distributes a wide range of quality meats and meat products, all made in the heart of Somerset, both directly to the public through its popular farm shop at Shepton Mallett and to retailers, restaurants and other food businesses across the South of England.

Since Jon Thorner started the business nearly 40 years ago, it has grown rapidly and become a notable local success – employing over 120 people and with a turnover in excess of £9 million.

The deal sees Richard and Thomas Hunt buying half of the shares in Jon Thorner’s for an undisclosed sum. Thomas Hunt and Mr Thorner will become joint Managing Directors of the business. Mr Thorner has an option to sell the remaining half of the shares to the Hunts in three years’ time – but the agreement has flexibility built in, meaning that Mr Thorner could sell some or all of the remaining shares to one or more of his children if they are interested in taking a stake in the business.

Stephens Scown coordinated the due diligence process for the deal and drew up and negotiated the sales documentation and contracts on Mr Thorner’s behalf. Working to a tight deadline, the deal was unusual in actually completing a week earlier than expected!

Catherine Carlton, Senior Associate in Stephens Scown’s Corporate team who led on the deal, said: “Having built up such a fantastic business through years of dedication and hard work, we were very pleased to help arrange a deal that works well for Jon and all parties. There were a number of complex factors to consider. The structure of the deal is flexible so that, in the coming years, Jon and his family members can make a decision about succession plans for the business – including the option to sell the entirety of the remainder to the Hunts. We wish all parties every success as the business moves on into its next, exciting phase.”

Jon Thorner said: “This was a unique deal to give me the flexibility I need as I think about when I retire. The Hunts and I both share an ambition to grow the business and I’m excited for the next few years as we put our plans into place. Selling part of the business I have built up was the right thing for me to do but it was a big deal for me, and I needed advisors I could trust. Catherine and the team at Stephens Scown grasped the issues so quickly and really understood what I wanted to achieve.”

The deal further underlines Stephens Scown’s significant credentials in working with the food and drink sector in Devon and Cornwall. Other clients that the firm advises include Thatcher’s Cider, Luscombe Drinks, Chunk of Devon and Rodda’s.

Stephens Scown has over 290 staff, including more than 50 partners, across its offices in Exeter, Truro and St Austell. The firm has been listed for four consecutive years in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For list. For more information visit www.stephens-scown.co.uk