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Watercress entrepreneur finally sells his business

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Malcolm Isaac is not one of Britain’s best-known entrepreneurs. But he should be. Now, at the age of 79, he is bowing out by the sale of his company Vitacress to the Portuguese family-owned company, Grupo RAR, for a reported £50m.

Isaac is said to own approximately 80 per cent of the shares.

Isaac started Vitacress in 1951 with a single acre of watercress beds and over the decades turned it into one of the country’s leading growers, packers and distributors of high quality salads. 

Vitacress now employs over 1,000 full time staff, employing around 1,000 people and with an £81m turnover in 2007. With farms in Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Kent and Portugal, and in excess of 300,000 sq m of growing beds, it is the world’s leading watercress producer.

It is also Europe’s largest grower / packer of organic watercress and baby leaf salads.

For more than 20 years, Isaac had developed connections in Iberia. Vitacress Agricultura Intensiva Limitada (VAIL), a Portuguese operation, was established to secure winter supplies of watercress.

By the late 1980s, a wholly-owned subsidiary Iberian Salads Agricultura Limitada was established, to provide year-round supplies of the  baby leaf salad crops.

In AOL Money, CEO Nick Stenning is quoted as describing Mr Isaac as "one of those really amazing entrepreneurs".

It isn’t just the scale of Isaac’s creation that is impressive. He and his team have clearly built an excellent company. Witness this story from the Design Council about their innovative use of design, or its prizes for sustainability, and for its impressive factory.

According to the Telegraph, Cavendish Corporate Finance advised Vitacress on the sale. You can read their summary of the deal here.

Other farming entrepreneurs have sold out recently. Read our story about William Chase of Tyrells Crisps here. 

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