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Scotland's Top Three Movers And Shakers

Scotland's entrepreneurial prowess will be on display later this week, when the Entrepreneurial Exchange annual awards are presented in front of 800 guests at the Glasgow Hilton Hotel on Thursday.

Sponsored by The Herald and Deloitte, the Entrepreneurial Exchange annual awards fall into two categories. These are Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year and Entrepreneur of the Year.

Our preview of the three shortlisted finalists ends with the Entrepreneur of the Year candidates.

Name: Martin Lightbody.

Company: Lightbody Celebration Cakes.

Location: Lanarkshire.

Started: The family business was started in 1885 and Lightbody was acquired by Finsbury Food Group in January 2007.

Employees: 2500 staff (Finsbury).

Financial: Turnover approximately £140m.

In a 20-year career at the eponymous baker, Martin Lightbody has masterminded the transformation of the business from being a relatively small high street operation into becoming an integral part of one of the UK's biggest cake producers.

Martin joined Lightbody in 1987, a member of the fourth generation of the family to work in the business, which he took charge of in 1993. Two years later, he sold Lightbody's 26 shops and refocused the firm on the business of making celebration cakes.

Over the next decade he established Hamilton-based Lightbody as the leading player in the fast-growing market to produce cakes decorated with famous characters such as Sponge Bob Squarepants. With licences to produce goods using Disney characters in the UK and continental Europe, Lightbody amassed sales of £50m annually. Around half came from licensed products. A £5m investment in a confectionery and bar plant helped limit reliance on celebration cakes, while the introduction of a new 160 metre-long bakery line capable of producing 1000 small cakes per minute boosted efficiency.

Finsbury Foods liked the story so much that the listed firm bought Lightbody for up to £37.5m in January. Martin Lightbody acquired a 30% stake in Finsbury as part of the deal, giving him the largest single holding in a firm with a strong portfolio of brands and licences generating turnover of approximately £140m.

In addition to being a main board director of Finsbury, he is pursuing his own interests including joint ventures in the US and China, along with the Party Fizz business in Europe.

Deloitte Comments: Martin has led the business effectively from a start-up through a reverse takeover into a listed group. He is now well positioned following the Finsbury deal to be a consolidator and grow the business further.

Martin was selected as a finalist because he has a track record of business growth and innovation with Lightbody Cakes. He anticipated changes in his marketplace and took action to diversify and explore new areas with long-term benefits. He has demonstrated an ability to build strong relationships with the multiples, manufacturing own brand alongside branded products.

He realised significant value for his business through the Finsbury deal, enabling him to take cash out. By reinvesting he was able to take the single largest shareholding of a £150m business.

The new group is now well positioned to significantly grow the business through further consolidation of the industry and additional acquisitions, plus expansion into new territories.

Name: Steve Leach.

Company: bigmouthmedia.

Location: Headquartered in Edinburgh and Munich.

Started: 1997.

Employees: 200.

Financial: Projected revenue of £70m in the current year.

With a track record that includes developing successful jet delivery and computer sales firms, as well as working as a fireman, Leach won a place in the international big league as a pioneer of the digital marketing industry.

After spotting the opportunity to make money helping firms figure out how to harness the power of the internet for marketing, Leach founded bigmouthmedia in 1997 in an Edinburgh basement.

Amid widespread lack of understanding of the internet's potential, Leach initially faced an uphill struggle. However, momentum gathered as internet advertising grew and bigmouthmedia developed a profitable niche as as the leading search engine marketing (SEM) agency in the UK.

In December 2006, Leach merged the firm with leading German specialist, Global Media, in a deal backed by Carlyle Group, the US private equity giant, which valued the firm at around £50m.

Leach is believed to have taken £25m in cash and re-invested £25m for a substantial share of the entire group.

The merger more than doubled bigmouthmedia's turnover, profit, client list and staff numbers overnight. The combined entity created the largest independent SEM company in Europe with clients including British Airways, Austrian Airlines and Barclays.

Global Media's European offices rebranded as bigmouthmedia and the group is now Europe's leading digital marketing agency, with an annual turnover in excess of £140m, and more than 200 staff across 13 offices, in 10 countries.

As group chief executive officer, Leach heads all 13 bigmouthmedia offices.

His ambition for the company is to make several acquisitions next year to take the firm to £500m revenue in 2009.

Leach further demonstrated his entrepreneurial flair by making a £2m return on a one-year investment in a software firm and amassing a property portfolio valued at £15m.

Away from bigmouthmedia, Leach is married to co-founder, Heather Luscombe. The couple live in the £5m Seton Castle in East Lothian, with their three children and four highland cows. Leach plans to invest significant amounts of time, energy and resources in pursuing his interest in social entrepreneurialism in the future.

Deloitte Comments:: Steve is a very energetic and enthusiastic leader. As an individual he is charismatic, relaxed and has an air of fun, but is very focused on the business. He has built a great team and he shows leadership and drive.

He has grown a significant business from early entry into the emerging internet market - very insightful of him to recognise huge opportunities. He has a clear understanding of his brand values and ethos. His team buys into the brand and company culture.

Steve was selected as a finalist because he has demonstrated a track record in building a business of scalability, substance and sustainability with strong management processes.

He has shown vision, insight and innovation in an emerging market and engineered a clever merger to realise cash value from his business, retained 40% in the combined new business and taken control as Global chief executive.

Name: John Kennedy.

Company: Kenmore Property Group.

Location: International.

Started: 1986.

Employees: 90.

Financial: Turnover last year was £198m.

A chartered surveyor by profession, John Kennedy is now one of the best-known names in the property industry in Scotland and further afield, helped by 30 years of astute deal-making.

Kennedy founded Kenmore Property Group in 1986 with £200,000 capital and ambitious plans which took him initially into the field of office development in Glasgow and Edinburgh, before branching out into trading standing investments.

The company enjoyed years of growth until in 2001 - with Kenmore group vice-chairman Bill Thomson - Kennedy made a well-timed move into housing by forming Kenmore Homes as a residential development funder and developer of homes throughout the UK.

The company was sold in October this year to Highcross for around £18m.

Meanwhile, helped by innovative deals to get institutions to invest with Kenmore Property Group, Kennedy developed a trading and development property and fund management group, which now manages in excess of £1.7bn of investments. The company has stakes in developments across the UK and in France, Holland, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Dubai.

Deloitte Comments:John is a leader of substance and great presence. He has a proven track record in building a significant, sustainable business that has great growth potential in new geographical markets. As the UK property market gets tougher, John has looked strategically to emerging markets for new opportunities and has opened an office in Dubai to pursue investments there and in Qatar, Bahrain and India.

He has built a significant business which has yielded consistently high levels of returns and enabled his team to participate in the rewards and successes of the business.

John has employed innovative funding structures to leverage the group's assets and developed strong relationships with a number of JV partners, which have all yielded significant value.

 

By MARK WILLIAMSON

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