The two families that founded the Ferguson Plarre Bakehouse have parted ways, with the Plarre family buying out the Ferguson family after going to the Victorian Supreme Court to try and sort out the succession of the bakery business.
The business will continue to operate under the Ferguson Plarre Bakehouse banner, headed by chief executive Steve Plarre. Formerly, there was a joint chief executive position.
Plarre told SmartCompany the families had been trying to work out a succession plan for over a year, but in the end the Plarre family was forced to file a claim in the Supreme Court which was settled before getting to court.
“They were standard family succession issues, the families have been in partnership since 1980 and the Fergusons are in their fifth generation. My counterpart, Ken Ferguson, was 70 and we had some differing management styles and sought to resolve that with the acquisition,” Plarre says.
“It just came down to differences that were irreconcilable towards the end in terms of management style.”
A merger of the two bakeries that traced their histories back to the early 1900s took place in 1980 and the business grew across Victoria to a network of 57 stores across Australia with $19.5 million turnover last year.
The Plarre family predominantly handled the manufacturing part of the business, though Steve Plarre’s father, Ralph Plarre, had joined Ken Ferguson in retail management.
“There has been a very clear delineation between the two families management since 1987: Ferguson looked after retail and we looked after finance, manufacturing,” Plarre says.
“It has only been in the last couple of years when the issue of succession became a little clouded.
“For both families there has been some closure and both have walked away with heads held high, despite differences at the end. We have 57 stores, fantastic franchisees and a great culture.”
Plarre says the buyout will allow the Plarre family to drive the bakery forward with plans to bring the number of stores in Australia up to 100.
“We wanted to corporatise and to bring in external expertise and we needed to make the acquisition to get that going and to really grow that business,” Plarre says.
“There is opportunity for easily 100 stores. We are looking forward to taking it to Dandenong, Cranbourne and Hastings and growing the incumbent franchise network sales, particularly in a market where retail seems to be suffering in a lot of areas, our sales are very strong.”
Recently, the Plarre family had started a new baking business, the Puckles Family Bakehouse in Queensland, and the Ferguson Plarre business is a supplier of some products for this new venture.