Hotel Chocolat’s shares rose by 160% after the takeover was announced. At the end of 2021, the company was still valued at a high of £700 million. While Thirlwell will reinvest around 80% of his proceeds from the takeover into the new company, Harris plans to cash out most of his stake when he retires.
Thirlwell, who will continue as managing director of Hotel Chocolat, said in a statement: “The brand has been well received by consumers in a number of markets. We have found that manufacturing the products in-country and all the logistics behind the scenes requires more work. The acquisition accelerates an expansion that would have taken longer as an independent company.”
The company was founded in 1993 by Thirlwell and Harris, the Hotel Chocolat brand was created in 2003 and a year later their first store was opened in North London. Since then, the company has grown to 131 stores in the UK and 21 stores in Japan under a licensing agreement, as well as a luxury hotel on its cocoa farm on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia. Hotel Chocolat went public back in 2016, raising more than £20 million each for the founders. This was followed by intensive restructuring measures to cope with the rapid growth.
The new owner Mars will continue production in the UK and will also retain the recipe. The company, which is still owned by the Mars family, will use its international position to scale the brand internationally. As the fourth largest privately owned company in the US and one of the largest food companies in the world, Mars employs around 140,000 people worldwide.