Led by chief executive Clive Miquel, the Coatbridge-based board has spent almost £1 million on the £5.5m management buyout – almost as much as it made in pre-tax profits last year. According to the accounts for 2005, the year it listed on the alternative investments market (Aim), it spent £130,000 on that transaction.
The huge disparity between the figures has raised eyebrows in corporate circles just days after the controversial delisting was finally given approval in the Court of Session in Edinburgh last Tuesday, about a month later than expected.
David Watt, executive director of the Institute of Directors in Scotland, said he was "surprised" by the figure, saying he would not have expected a delisting to cost much more than a listing.
He said: "Costs have gone up in recent years as deals have got more complicated. There's a bit of specialist knowledge involved in listing and delisting, but there's also a problem with how much advisers charge."
He added that one problem was that there was pressure on firms to use blue-chip advisers for these kinds of jobs. Lees' advisers included Baker Tilly, Grant Thornton and Shore Capital.
The deal was made more expensive by the fact that the directors had to create a takeover vehicle, Randotte. The sum total of Randotte's fees for lawyers, financial advisers, bankers and other services was £395,000. Lees then had to pay for the same services itself, costing another £237,000.
Over and above, the Sunday Herald estimates that the £5m loan from Lloyds Banking Group will cost Lees about £300,000 in interest payments over the next five years – or more depending on how it refinances bridging debts due later this month.
The 230p-per-share deal was controversial among shareholders, with a significant minority opposing it. Some complained it was too close to the 200p listing price and argued the company was worth as much as 300p. Although they were unsuccessful, the transaction took a month longer to get court approval than was expected.
It is the latest chapter in a dramatic couple of years for the company, which can trace its roots back to the 1920s. Its takeover of Livingston-based Patisserie UK in 2007 for £2.7m went disastrously wrong after the cake maker lost its biggest customer the following year, leading it into administration and racking up severe writedowns at Lees that contributed to a 2008 loss of £1.5m.
The following year, chief executive Raymond Miquel – father of Clive – was ousted in a boardroom coup led by his son following disputes over strategy.
A spokesman for Lees said the company would exercise its right as a private entity and make no comment.