THE OWNER of the company behind Scotland’s only indoor ski centre said he feels as though he has “got out of jail” after completing a management buyout of the business.

Jamie Smith, founder of Ice Factor, struck a deal with HSBC to fund a buyout of Highland Venture Capital (HVC) and the Scottish Investment Bank (SIB).

He is now in discussions to raise up to £25 million through a flotation on London’s alternative investment market (AIM).

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HSBC provided funding of £523,000 and Mr Smith said this entire sum, along with additional personal funds, had been used to give the backers an exit.

Mr Smith said he was delighted to have completed the deal, adding that it felt “liberating, I mean there is no other word for it. I feel like I’ve just got just got out of jail”.

The business owns Snow Factor Braehead and Ice Factor Kinlochleven, and last April won a contract to operate a new £30m snow-dome planned as part of a regeneration project in Middlesbrough.

Mr Smith, himself a mountaineer, said there was no question HVC helped accelerate the company’s growth, where last year turnover was £4.2m.

But he added that he “became frustrated with the pace of change and the inability to grasp some of the opportunities” available to the company.

This included building a new Ice Factor in Inverness, a deal which ultimately failed to come to fruition.

“We were approached by multiple developers and I found I just couldn’t proceed so either I or [HVC] needed to exit the business to take it to the next level.”

He added: “I’ve previously dealt with venture capital companies in North America and found them quite aggressive but clear and straightforward to work with and I think the experience here in Scotland was lacking in that sense, it wasn’t as value added as it might have been.”

Regarding the input of SIB, Mr Smith said the investment arm of Scottish Enterprise was effectively a silent partner which relied on the angel partner to negotiate the terms of the deal.

In terms of future funding, Mr Smith said he had been approached by a number of potential partners, and one discussion currently underway centred on an initial public offering (IPO).

“That is a very effective way of raising £20m to £25m which would allow us to accelerate our growth plans quite considerably,” he said.

Mr Smith said he had held talks with the stock exchange and nominated advisors (nomad) about floating the company.

“The challenge here is, what do you want to do, do you want to be massive and grow quickly or do you want to grow in a controlled and strategic way? Unless I can see a really compelling reason for diluting the equity position we’ll do it slowly and steadily, because there is enough opportunity there.”

The company, which has 209 staff, is focused on completing the Middlesbrough project. Further new sites, said Mr Smith, were a possibility.

“We get calls every couple of months from property developers… there is no doubt that the conventional retail model is struggling. Leisure was always the poor cousin of retail but that has been flipped on its head now. It attracts families, kids, young adults, and people are actually spending money on things,” he said.

Mr Smith said there was also the possibility to acquire other sites in the UK that were already operational.

“We’ve grown ten-fold in ten years and I’d like to accelerate that growth now. The obvious thing for us to look for is an acquisition trail where we acquire two or three existing snow centres rather than waiting for new ones to be built.”

Susan Rowand, HSBC head of business banking in Scotland, said she was looking forward to seeing Ice Factor continuing to grow, adding: “We are committed to supporting Scottish businesses like Ice Factor Group to achieve their growth potential and make their ambitions a reality.”

HVC did not respond to requests for comment on the exit.