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Fri April 03 2020

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Ainscough's new owners leave COO in charge

11 Mar New private equity owners of Britain’s biggest mobile crane hire company have completed a financial restructuring of the business but have no plans to appoint a new chief executive.

Ainscough’s latest fleet investment is a pair of Liebherr MK140 truck-mounted tower cranes. It now has six of this model.
Ainscough’s latest fleet investment is a pair of Liebherr MK140 truck-mounted tower cranes. It now has six of this model.

Chief operating officer Peter Gibbs is now entrusted with leading Ainscough Crane Hire. He joined the company in May 2018 after 10 years in the catering industry; he was promoted to the Ainscough board in September 2019.

As previously reported, former chief executive Jeremy Fry’s time in the boardroom lasted just six weeks before his departure on 13th February.

It has recently emerged that on 19th September 2019 ownership of Ainscough Crane Hire quietly transferred from Oaktree Capital Management to GSO Capital Partners, part of the private equity firm Blackstone Group.

Control of Oaktree, by this time, which had owned Ainscough for four years, had been taken over by Brookfield Asset Management.

GSO is the fourth group of investors to have ownership of Ainscough Crane Hire since brothers Martin Brendan and James Ainscough sold up in 2007.

Jeremy Fry had initially been appointed interim chief executive by Oaktree in March 2019 to replace Janet Entwistle, who had been appointed to the job in September 2016.

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It is still not clear why GSO elevated Mr Fry to the boardroom and made his interim position permanent, only to have him leave six weeks later. However, there appears to be no intention currently to appoint a replacement chief executive, we are told.

Although Peter Gibbs is yet another crane industry outsider to be put in charge, the money people reckon he has learned enough in his 22 months at Ainscough to make a go of it. They also stress that he is supported by a team of three properly experience regional directors – Lee Sixsmith, Mark James and Andrew Spink – as well as commercial director Derek Gow, who has been in the crane business more than five years now. The three regional directors all have more than 20 years’ experience in the crane industry and between them have a combined 46 years at Ainscough.

Until now, there had been total silence from Ainscough on the change of ownership and the departure of Mr Fry.

However, in response to enquiries, we were provided with this statement by an Ainscough spokesperson: “We are grateful to Jeremy who kindly agreed to fill the role on an interim basis previously, and did an excellent job getting turnaround efforts under way. We are delighted that Peter Gibbs and a team of seasoned industry veterans have agreed to take on the leadership of the business in Ainscough’s next phase.

“Having recently completed a holistic financial restructuring, designed to secure the long-term future of the business, we are now implementing operational improvements to drive this great business forward. The leadership teams, appointed by the new owners, have demonstrable industry experience and expertise, including some who started as Ainscough crane operators themselves.”

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