Company Which Sponsors European Rugby Champions Exeter Chiefs Has Been Bought By A Brighton-Based Tech Firm To Create A £100millon Business.

By William Telford

The Company Which Sponsors European Rugby Champions Exeter Chiefs Has Been Bought By A Brighton-Based Tech Firm To Create A £100millon Business – but its founder has stood down. Focus Group’s acquisition of swcomms coincides with the retirement of the Exeter-based company’s creator Tony Rowe, who is also chief executive of Exeter Chiefs and ranked as one of the most significant business figures in the South West. Mr Rowe is stepping down as chief executive and chairman of the firm he set up in 1983 but the business communications and IT provider will continue to operate from its HQ in Sowton, Exeter, where it has signed a long-term lease.

Swcomms will also continue to operate under its brand name and the “majority” of the existing management team and employees will continue to work for the business. They have already started recruiting new staff through its training academy. Focus Group, also a business communications and tech firm, is said to have made a “considerable investment” in snapping up swcomms. Focus Group’s investment will provide valuable resources and opportunity for growth for swcomms while the Shoreham-headquartered venture will benefit from an extended footprint in the South West.

The combined outfit will be a £100million turnover enterprise. Most recent accounts show that swcomms earned £19million in 2019, making a pre-tax profit of £300,000. Brian Lodge, swcomms managing director, said: “I am very excited about this new partnership. The investment from Focus Group will coincide with some great opportunities in the market created by a shift in the industry towards cloud, connectivity, home working and Openreach’s withdrawal of copper voice and internet services.

“There is a perfect fit between the two companies with an amazing synergy in what we do. We will benefit hugely from working with Focus. Together, we will be more competitive and we plan to grow the business significantly in the next few years. The expansion of our data centre environment, one of the few located in the South West, is also something we are looking forward to.”

He added: “Our staff and our customers are at the heart of everything we do and this is very much mirrored at Focus Group. Delivering a better service is our top priority. Being part of the Focus Group will give us all the wider benefits of a £100million turnover business while still allowing us to maintain a local and personal service to our customers by utilising the commitment and expertise of our wonderful staff.”

Swcomms was established as a business telecoms provider but expanded, providing the latest technology for all business sizes in the South West. It delivers voice, connectivity, data, cloud and a full range of other technology products and services to more than 2,500 customers and employs about 100 people. The company has been supporting European Champions Cup holders Exeter Chiefs for more than 20 years. It is currently the club’s main sponsor, first team sponsor and Community Chiefs sponsor with match day playing shirts bearing the swcomms’ name and logos.

Mr Rowe has been the driving force behind the Chiefs for more than 20 years and has been credited with turning around the fortunes of the club to become one of the biggest draws in sport and hospitality in the South West. He relocated the club from its former County Ground site to Sandy Park in 2006, and saw a huge growth in turnover, from about £150,000 in 1998 to £17million in 2017. He was awarded an OBE for services to business, sport and charity in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours List and has received an honorary doctorate of laws from University of Exeter and the Freedom of the City of Exeter. In 2020 he was ranked at number 5 in Devon Live’s Power List top 50.

Focus Group was founded more than 15 years ago as a leading information, communications and technology provider to organisations. With a team of more than 450 staff it has more than 20,000 customers, offering an extensive range of the latest technology across voice, IT, cyber, connectivity, mobile and energy. Ralph Gilbert, co-founder of Focus Group, said: “I’m delighted to welcome swcomms to the Focus Group family. They have built a wonderful business during the past 38 years.

“With their vast range of solutions, experience in data centre technology, their culture and management team, I’m excited to unite with swcomms to accelerate growth in the South West of the UK. I’m thrilled to be able to connect more customers, our people and communities together.”

This news was originally published at Business Live.