Ben Lyon, left, with workers at the Tebay headquarters

Ben Lyon, left, with workers at the Tebay headquarters

Two major outdoors companies have transferred their ownership to their workers.

Terra Nova Equipment and Lyon Equipment have both formed employee ownership trusts and vested the firm’s ownership in them.

It follows a similar move by Nikwax and Páramo in February.

Terra Nova manufactures tents under its own brand as well as Wild Country, plus Extremities gloves and accessories.

Lyon Equipment manufactures caving and rescue equipment but is best known as the UK distributor of brands such as Petzl, La Sportiva Ortlieb and Exped.

Ben Lyon said he started making caving ladders in a shed back in 1967, little thinking that over half a century later that tiny business would develop into the present-day Lyon Equipment Limited, with about a hundred staff and an enterprise that encompasses manufacturing, distribution and training.

He said: “We have always been fiercely independent, and plan to remain so.

“After becoming a limited company we sought to keep our independence by developing an internal market for our shares, keeping ownership 100 per cent in the hands of employees.

“However, in recent years we came to the realisation that the majority shareholders were ageing rapidly and likely to leave within a short time frame so our plan would simply not continue to work. What to do? Selling the company was ruled out, so we decided to enhance our employee-owned status by vesting ownership of Lyon Equipment into an employee ownership trust.

“Our key values remain unchanged as we move forward under our aim to ‘venture further’, but on the practical side of running the business there will be considerable change. We will continue our longstanding policy of promotions from within our hugely talented staff wherever possible.”

Lyon Equipment currently employs more than 90 staff with offices, manufacturing, warehousing and training facility all based in Tebay, Cumbria.

The company announced the transition to the newly established employee ownership trust on 4 May.

Mr Lyon, 82, said: “Jonathan Capper will continue in his current role as managing director, supported by Paul Cornthwaite as commercial director, Rick Cockayne as financial director and Martin Bergerud as Petzl agency director.”

Founder Ben Lyon

Founder Ben Lyon

Ben Lyon is retiring with immediate effect along with Carol Nicholls, Tina Benson and Frank Bennett.

Mr Lyon added: “Becoming an employee ownership trust means that we need a board of trustees. Two of these will be long-serving members of staff, Michelle Airey and John Samways, to be joined by Jon Armitage, who has acted as an adviser to Lyon Equipment in past restructuring.

“Under Jonathan’s expert guidance, Lyon Equipment will continue to maintain the highest standards of technical competence in all its fields of activity and strive to constantly improve our level of customer service.

“It’s been a long and fascinating journey. Time now to take a back seat!”

Terra Nova boasts of holding the Guinness World Record for the lightest tent, and has been run by husband-and-wife team Andy Utting and Carolyn Budding for 22 years. They said their move will give staff a greater sense of ownership and its benefits as the business develops.

Terra Nova Equipment said it has maintained production capabilities in its Derbyshire factory, enabling the company to experiment with products, and make niche and bespoke products.

Terra Nova is best known for its tent range

Terra Nova is best known for its tent range

Mr Utting said: “We are in the business of facilitating sport, adventure and travel that is outdoor recreation. Our business has been built on the ideas of enthusiasts, users and experts in designing and manufacturing some of the best specialist products in the world.

“Our teams have overcome the most difficult challenges of the last two decades of Brexit, Covid and now the Ukrainian war.

“We wanted to not only reward our staff for the work and commitment they have put in, but to secure the character of the business. The outdoor industry has been built by specialist businesses creating best-in-class products, with those businesses often being swallowed up into larger organisations as their owners and founders move on.

“We believe the future evolution of Terra Nova Equipment is best served through its continued independence, which employee ownership delivers.”

The company said Terra Nova and its sister brands Wild Country and Extremities are enjoying the incredible interest in camping and the outdoors both in the UK and overseas, culminating in a record order book for this summer and coming winter.

As part of the same deal, sister company, has also become employee owned. Founded in 2004, the business was a pioneer in bringing school uniform sales to the online marketplace.

Carolyn Budding said, “We have a great and loyal team, some of whom we’ve worked with for 22 years. People enjoy working in our businesses, so it was important to retain the culture and provide ongoing job security for our staff as we develop the succession plan for the ongoing leadership of the business.”

Sylwester Wacht was appointed as managing director of the group and subsidiaries 18 months ago, enabling Mr Utting to concentrate on the transition of the Hubaco Group businesses to employee ownership.

Mr Utting said, “The team has demonstrated they can run these businesses very well with Sly’s leadership. Carolyn and I remain on hand for advice, and will assist with the development of the businesses over the next few years, where needed.

“However, it is important that younger people are able to develop their own ideas and can see a path to senior management and greater responsibility.

“There is clear evidence that companies with significant levels of employee ownership have a happier workforce with more engaged and innovative staff. Such businesses experience lower levels of absenteeism and staff turnover, and are more profitable and desirable places to work.”