Michelmores advises Ocean Fish on acquisition of majority shareholding in operator of Britain's largest beam trawl fleets, W. Stevenson & Sons

Michelmores has advised Ocean Fish Group (Ocean Fish), a leading UK fishing and processing import-export business, based in Cornwall, on the acquisition of a majority stake in neighbouring Cornwall company, W. Stevenson & Sons (WSS), which owns the largest privately owned beam trawl fleet in Britain and has over 100 years' experience in the fishing industry. The acquisition was financed by HSBC UK, with WSS's existing debt being refinanced by RBS.

Ocean Fish is an import-export fishing, fish and molluscs production business independently owned by the Lakeman family with a unique fishing heritage dating back to the 18th century. Its focus is on managing sustainable fishing in the open South West seas utilising their own fleet of fishing vessels, processing fish in their state-of-the-art processing facility and distributing to both national and international customers with their own fleet of articulated trucks. It is also the largest fish buyer from the South West local fish markets processing over 30 different species of fish and molluscs including farmed fish from northern Europe and the Mediterranean. The company supplies customers ranging from small wholesalers to major household retailers, delivering both fresh and frozen produce.

WSS has been fishing as a family run business out of Newlyn for over 100 years. Aside from catching and landing fish from its own fleet, they also act as agents and auctioneers for a number of other vessels. The business offers a complete supply chain, including sorting, grading, auctioning and even delivering fish boxes by post to consumers nationally.

The Michelmores team was led by Partner Henry Taylor, supported by Brian GarnerHarry Trick, alongside KPMG.

Leigh Genge, Managing Director of Ocean Fish, noted:

"The Lakeman and Stevenson families hold very similar views on the importance of maintaining a vibrant and prosperous fishing industry in Cornwall. We see this transaction as achieving a long-held ambition of bringing both families together to deliver this goal. Our investment underpins the importance of Newlyn, Cornwall, as the UK’s prime white fish port. We will also be taking time to consider the programme of capital investment required in both existing and new vessels to ensure that W. Stevenson & Sons is well placed to be a success for future generations and creates new and exciting employment opportunities for young people in the industry".

Harry Trick commented:

"The whole team are delighted to have advised Ocean Fish on this coming together of two of Cornwall's most notable family businesses and brands – we are all now looking forward to seeing how the investment will benefit Cornwall's vitally important fishing industry".