Employee ownership move for civil and structural engineering consultancy

24 June 2022

A Cardiff-based civil and structural engineering consultancy behind a number of landmark projects has transitioned into an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT).

Established in 1991 by Howard Austin, Austin Partnership is one of the best known consultancies in South Wales with a reputation for restoring and repurposing historic buildings as well as designing new build schemes for public and private sector clients.

Projects the business has worked on include Goodsheds in Barry and St Fagans National Museum of History.

Austin Partnership will now be owned by ten of its technical staff from its office in Cardiff. Howard Austin will remain as a director of the business, as will his technical director Gavin Fairclough, alongside newly appointed Andrew Saralis. Howard Austin plans to step back from his role at the company in the coming years, but will remain in post while the new company structure settles in.

Explaining the reason for selling the business to an EOT rather than another company, Howard Austin said: “I love the business I have built here with Austin Partnership and I’m very proud of the team we have and the work we do. When considering how I would eventually exit the business, the idea of selling it to someone else just didn’t work for me. I wanted it to go to people who would safeguard its future and protect the legacy of the hard work we have all invested.

“We have a wonderful team at Austin Partnership, people who care about our reputation and the work we do. When I learned about the EOT option and the fact that I could work with the current employees until I decide to fully retire, it seemed like the perfect solution. I am excited to see what the future holds for Austin Partnership and the great team we have here.”

Howard Austin and the team at Austin Partnership was supported on the EOT by Social Business Wales, which is provided by Cwmpas, the new name for the Wales Co-operative Centre. Darwin Gray and Azets acted on behalf of the company on the EOT.

Derek Walker, chief executive of Cwmpas, which delivers Social Business Wales, said: “Again, it is great to see another successful Welsh business look at the employee ownership model as a way to succession plan, rather than just selling the business.

“Austin Partnership is a great example of how using an EOT can sell on an award winning, growing business to people with a vested interest who are looking to expand the business. I can’t wait to see it go from strength to strength under its new ownership.”

Andrew Saralis, newly appointed director at Austin Partnership, said of the EOT: “This is an exciting time for the company. With Howard remaining at the helm for the time being, we can implement our long-term strategy for the business, continue to build our strong client relationships and use the incentive of employee ownership to attract the best talent in the industry.

“Personally, I am very proud to have been appointed at such a pivotal time for the company and am looking forward to working closely with Howard and Gavin, as well as my co-owners and colleagues on growing the business even further.”

The Employee Ownership Wales service is part of the Social Business Wales programme provided by Cwmpas. It is part of the Business Wales family and funded by Welsh Government and the European Regional Development Fund.