French nursery group La Maison Bleue seals first UK deal

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One of the largest nursery groups in France has acquired The Old Station Nursery group.


Founder and CEO of La Maison Bleue (LMB) Sylvain Forestier with Sarah Steel, centre, founder and MD of The Old Station Nursery, and Fatima Zohra Essoufi, M & A manager, LMB

This is the first UK deal for La Maison Bleue, which operates 300 nurseries in three countries.

The nursery group said it has ambitious growth plans to expand further in the UK through acquisitions and to become a significant market player.

Founded in 2004 by French entrepreneur Sylvain Forestier and Antonio Ryckbosch, a paediatric nurse, the group has expanded over the last 15 years to become one of the top three largest groups in France, the largest in Switzerland, and second largest in Luxembourg.

The Old Station Nursery was set up by Sarah Steel in 2002 and operates nine nurseries and one out-of-school club in Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Warwickshire.

At one time the group grew to 16 nurseries, with several catering for military families and on RAF bases.

La Maison Bleue (LMB) is backed by investors TowerBrook and Bpifrance with a strong ambition to become a leading player in Europe.

LMB said its expansion strategy is driven by investing in its existing nurseries , as well as acquiring new ones to grow in partnership with them.

It said its main goal was to develop the nurseries it acquires allowing them to benefit from being part of a leading network.

Sylvain Forestier, CEO of La Maison Bleue, said, ‘We have been impressed by The Old Station Nursery’s achievements since the opening of the first nursery in Faringdon in 2002 and the business focus on quality childcare.

‘We highly value Sarah’s extensive experience in the sector and are delighted by the prospect of partnering with her and The Old Station Nursery team to create together one of the UK leading players in the childcare market.’

Sarah Steel, CEO of The Old Station Nursery, told Nursery World, ‘I’m really excited about the sale as I will be continuing as MD of The Old Station Group and will become the ‘country lead’ for La Maison Bleue, heading up their operations in the UK and looking to expand our group. It’s really reassuring for our team, knowing that it’s “business as usual” and that we’re just looking for more opportunities to do more of what we do well.

She added, ‘We are really pleased to be joining La Maison Bleue, as it allows us to build on all that we have achieved over the last 16 years, while enjoying the support of a leading company, which is also focused on quality.

‘It’s a really exciting move for us all at The Old Station Nursery and we look forward to working closely together.’

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