• Progression of successful partnership brings market leading collection businesses together to offer fully integrated solutions bringing additional strength and value-added services to clients
• Each business unit to operate separately, continuing to develop bespoke skills and specialisms
• Shared commitment to compliance, performance, innovation, investment in people and client relationships

Lowell Group, a leading purchaser of non-performing consumer debt portfolios in the United Kingdom, has today announced the acquisition of Interlaken Group, including its widely known Fredrickson International brand. The deal, for an undisclosed sum, will see ownership of the Surrey-based debt collection agencies group transfer to Lowell Group, along with the 300 plus employees. It is a union of two well-established innovators in the debt recovery industry in the United Kingdom.

The two companies have worked together successfully over many years. Both are widely recognised as leaders in their respective fields, sharing a commitment to compliance, developing market-leading technologies and investing in their people, as well as forming strategic partnerships with clients in order to drive long-term value.

Recognising the importance of maintaining and developing the intellectual property of both businesses, Lowell Group intends to run its operations and the operations of the Interlaken Group separately, in order for each group to continue to develop its bespoke specialisms and skills. At the same time, the combined group will seek to develop and realise its range of value added services, enhancing its all-round client proposition. The combined group will also benefit from economies of scale and sharing of best practice.

The move follows Lowell Group’s initial entry into contingent collections in January 2011 when it set up an ‘outsource to sell’ operation, Lowell Preston (Tocatto). It was set up as a research and development hub, offering clients the chance to work with the Lowell Group on a commission basis initially, before committing to a full debt sale and supporting decisions on pricing and strategies. However, it became much more of a strategic benefit for both the Lowell Group and its partner clients. Its success demonstrated the size and potential of the opportunity to operate distinct and separate debt collection and debt purchase businesses under one umbrella company, providing the rationale for today’s deal.

Commenting on the deal, James Cornell, Lowell Group CEO said:
“We have always respected the Interlaken Group as market-leaders in their field and are very excited about the opportunities to be gained from bringing the two businesses together. Our move into contingent collections in 2011 helped us realise the potential of today’s deal; the opportunity to deliver best-in-class service to our clients whether it be through contingent collections or debt purchase. Through our partnership we will also be able to provide long-term value to our clients by delivering new, creative and innovative solutions beyond debt collection and debt purchase, and offer a ‘one-stop’ shop of services to drive operating profit and balance sheet objectives of our clients.”

James continued:

“There is plenty of synergy in terms of clients, sector experience and skills and also plenty of opportunities for each business to expand into new areas and learn from each other. Fredrickson International, for example, are highly skilled across all debt and balance types, whilst Lowell’s strengths have traditionally been in lower balance accounts. Lowell will also be sharing its strength in data analysis and tracing to help boost collections performance in the new businesses.

“With many clients seeking value beyond contingent collections or debt purchase activities, the combination of Lowell and Interlaken will enable us to deliver integrated solutions on a far larger and more advanced scale.

“Interlaken has a strong track record and 17 year history, but importantly we also have a shared belief about what makes our businesses strong – our people, practices and technologies. Not only are we an excellent fit culturally, both taking pride in family values, but we each bring a range of complementary skills and experience. The initial reaction from clients is supportive of our approach, which is hugely encouraging as we build and develop more strategic client relationships. Following this deal, Lowell will be even better placed to deliver on our clients’ needs with new and innovative solutions as we continue to develop the intellectual property we hold in each business.”

James Cornell also stressed that this will not become an exclusive relationship and both parties will continue to work with existing partners across the debt recovery industry.

Simon Jones, Group Managing Director of Interlaken Group, and Roy Jones, Group Chairman, founded Fredrickson International in 1992 and the Interlaken Group in 1996. Their decision to stand down from the Group preceded today’s deal. Simon will remain with the business in the short-term to ensure a smooth transition.

Simon Jones commented:
“Today is the end of an era. Roy and I are exceptionally proud of the company we have built together. Since we established the Interlaken Group 17 years ago we have gone from employing just a handful of people to over 300 people today with annual collections now exceeding £100m.

“We are delighted to pass the reins across to the Lowell Group. We hand them a company with a strong leadership team, talented and dedicated staff, an enviable client base, the highest standards of compliance and ethics and an exceptionally strong performance. We could not think of a better company to take our business forward and take it to the next level.

“We would like to thank our staff and clients for all their support and trust during the past 20 years. We wish all concerned the very best of luck for the future.”

Frank Hanafin, Group Commercial Director, Interlaken Group, will remain with the Interlaken Group.

Frank commented:
“Like Lowell, we’ve never been short of ideas to innovate, develop and grow our business. What the combined group will bring is the funding and investment to help us realise these ambitions and continue to grow. Importantly, by joining forces with Lowell we are confident that we will be able to continue to deliver the best possible levels of service and performance in contingent collections and forge stronger more effective partnerships with our clients.

“Being a family business, we have naturally deliberated extensively about the best option for the future. We recognise that Lowell shares our approach to people, compliance, ethics and the technologies and data systems that underpin each of our businesses, which makes this combination the best option for our businesses, our people and our clients.”

Leeds-based Lowell Group, widely recognised as the UK’s leading debt purchaser, has officially launched its new ‘outsource to sell’ operation, Lowell Preston.

The new venture provides creditors the opportunity to outsource accounts to Lowell on a commission basis initially, with the option to sell to Lowell at a later date. It has been set up to offer potential clients that haven’t sold debt to Lowell before an opportunity to experience working with Lowell without the commitment of going straight into debt sale. It will also give existing clients a chance to outsource different types of debt to Lowell on a trial basis prior to sale.

Lowell Group’s chief operating officer Andrew Bartle said: 

It is about being flexible and innovative in our approach, ensuring that Lowell is best able to respond to creditor’s changing needs. We believe that an ‘outsource to sell’ strategy will be very attractive to a lot of organisations as it will provide them with an alternative route into debt sale and an opportunity to work with Lowell in a new way. For Lowell, it is an opportunity to build deeper and more strategic relationships and enter into new debt sale sectors.

Lowell Preston’s director of operations is Gary Jones, the former managing director of J2 Solutions, the tracing business Lowell acquired the assets of in 2009.

He said: 

Lowell has invested heavily into this operation – from finding the right premises, training staff and selecting systems to introducing new collections strategies – making sure every aspect is up to the high standard Lowell Group demands across all its operations. I’m delighted to say that we have had tremendous interest in Lowell Preston and have already signed up several new clients.

To find out more about Lowell Preston’s services, contact sales manager Phil Hickson on 0113 2856612 or email Philip.Hickson@lowellgroup.co.uk

Lowell Group has bought the fixed assets of J2 Solutions Ltd from its owners, JZ International, the majority shareholder in Mackenzie Hall.

The transaction forms part of Lowell’s expansion plans to setup an “outsource to sell” operation. In addition to the fixed assets all members of J2’s staff, including J2’s managing director Gary Jones, will transfer to the Lowell Group.

Lowell intends to build a contingent collections platform offering some of its key clients the opportunity of outsourcing their accounts on a commission basis with the intention of selling on some or all of those accounts to Lowell at a later date.

James Cornell, chief executive officer of Lowell said:

This is an exciting opportunity for both Lowell and its clients to explore new ways of working together by offering tailored debt sale solutions to meet our clients current and future debt sale requirements. Purchasing the assets of J2 and employing the J2 team will provide the catalyst for building a new dedicated platform targeted to providing our clients with a premium collections service.

Gary Jones commented:

My team and I are delighted to be joining the team at Lowell. Lowell has an extremely successful track record and I see this as an excellent opportunity for both me personally and my team, as well as for the marketplace

J2 will be dissolved following the assets being sold to Lowell to enable Mackenzie Hall to fully focus on its services to the secondary and tertiary collection markets and to the secondary debt sale market place. Mackenzie Hall has already developed an internal trace function ‘Connect’ in Kilmarnock in order to fully service its existing and future debt collections customers.

Paul Mackenzie, chief executive of Mackenzie Hall commented:

This enables Mackenzie Hall to focus on our market-leading debt collection and purchasing activities and we look forward to continuing our strong track record of growth.