Avant ceo Colin Lewis brightens up a drab Friday afternoon in central London with his pure enthusiasm, greeting Housebuilder brightly, keen to talk about his plans for the business which in 2014 began undergoing a “transformation”.
Lewis joined Avant Homes as chief operating officer four years before the start of its makeover, back when the company was named Gladedale Group and held regional brands. In late 2014, the newly monikered Avant was sold by owner Lloyds Bank to three hedge funds – Alchemy Special Opportunities, Avenue Capital and Angelo Gordon. Completing its transition, a year later the company brought its brands under the Avant banner.
Now, the revitalised “mid-range, upper-end northern housebuilder” (as Lewis describes it), is targeting growth – 2,000 homes per annum on a turnover of £500 million in the medium term. In the half year to October 2016, its completions rose 27% to 721, after the business achieved a total of 1,210 completions in the previous financial year. It is set to reach 35% revenue growth by the current year end.
Avant is a significant employer in the north with six new people recruited for each new site. But it “hasn’t been in the press a lot”, Lewis notes. He seems determined to change this.
A qualified solicitor with an 18-year history at Redrow, Lewis was promoted to chief executive in December 2014. He led the company through its acquisition, which strengthened Avant’s financial position by £330 million and eliminated all debts.
He strikes as a jovial sort but is clearly serious about delivering the best “product”. This now being the backbone of Avant’s philosophy – and evidently what he believes in – it is what he spends much of the interview talking about. The company’s literature states that he was the driving force behind redefining Avant’s product range. So, the sunny disposition comes with a razor-sharp focus.
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