James Tuckey, the executive chairman of Multiplex UK, and Roger Carey, the former president of the British Property Federation, have backed a management buy-in at niche project manager Ibis Project Services.
It was due to be announced today that MMC Ventures has funded a buy-in led by new chief executive Aidan Mills-Thomas. MMC is a private capital group that includes Tuckey, Carey and veteran property investor Robert Maxted among its investors.
Carey, who is also the former chief executive of developer Saville Gordon Estates, has joined the company as chairman.
Ibis, which was founded in 1990 by Rupert Ruff and is based in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, specialises in providing project management services to registered social landlords. It mainly works on the provision of affordable housing as a result of section 106 agreements.
It is working on £350m of affordable housing, including a 232-unit scheme for Dominion Housing Group at the Grosvenor Waterside development in central London.
Under Ruff, the company had a turnover of about £1m, but the pre-tax profit was substantial - £600,000 - as it operates in a niche market. Mills-Thomas said he hoped to treble turnover within five years.
Mills-Thomas added that the big property names backing the venture were interested in niche businesses. He said: "I am keen to make sure that section 106 agreements work in a non-adversarial way. Section 106s have been bedevilled in the past by people lobbing bricks at each other."
Mills-Thomas is a solicitor who founded and ran his own practice between 1976 and 1998. He worked at Ibis for a year while negotiating the buy-in to learn the ropes.
Mills-Thomas said: "I was involved with the company for about a year so that I could step into his [Ruff's] shoes."
The company employs 12 staff, 11 of whom are either quantity surveyors or building surveyors. Ibis' clients include many of the major housing associations, such as Southern Housing Group, Thames Valley and A2. Its work is concentrated in the southern half of the country.
Ruff is understood to be considering working outside the housing and property sectors.
Tuckey has received much publicity since February, when he was named by Multiplex as executive chairman of its UK business. His appointment was a signal to the industry that it had not given up on the UK, despite its problems at Wembley. Tuckey is a former chief executive of property company MEPC, and is also a non-executive director of English Partnerships.