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Art storage firm escapes CGT hike

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Momart transports precious paintings and sculptures between galleries and private collections. The east London-based firm was founded in the early seventies by a chap called John Moyes, then an out-of-pocket art student, and his friend Rees Martin (the name “Momart” is a combination of their surnames).

There was a management buy-out in 1997, and Boyle joined shortly after as finance director. He became the MD five years ago and built Momart into a £14m-turnover business with 115 employees.

Last summer, Boyle and the three other board members made the decision to sell up, appointing Livingstone Partners as their advisers.

Boyle says the due diligence process was “less painful than expected – but still just short of horrendous”.

The company hit the headlines in 2004 when a fire ripped through its warehouse, destroying hundreds of works by artists including Tracey Emin and the Chapman brothers, knocking Momart back by two years in terms of growth and losing it a couple of clients: “Obviously that incident cropped up during the due diligence process,” says Boyle. “We had to go into minute detail about what happened and how we dealt with it. It didn’t affect the valuation of the company but it was an additional headache. If you’re trying to hide skeletons in the closet or manipulate figures, my advice is: don’t bother.”

Boyle says he was looking for a buyer who understood the Momart brand and would allow the management team to stay on and help grow the company.

Step in AIM-listed Falkland Island Holdings (FIH), an international services group, whose interests include oil and gas exploration, managing retail outlets on the Falklands and operating the Gosport Ferry. “We invited FIH’s managing director and chairman to spend an afternoon with us and watch what we do,” says Boyle. “There isn’t a huge choice of eateries where we’re based, so we trundled down to the local Chinese restaurant. There was an instant rapport.”

Although FIH’s bid for the company wasn’t the highest, Boyle says the deal was “never just about money – it was more about the cultural fit”.

Momart was sold to FIH in a £10.3m cash and shares deal on 4 March this year. “It was perfect timing,” says Boyle. “If we’d left it another month, we would have been hit by the changes in CGT and our tax bill would have been 80 per cent higher.”

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