Upmarket cycling clothes brand Rapha has been bought by the grandsons of Walmart founder Sam Walton.Steuart and Tom Walton and their firm RZC Investments will now own a controlling stake in the business. Founder and chief executive Simon Mottram, who has only ever held a minority stake, said the deal marked “an exciting day” for the company.Current shareholders, including Mr Mottram and private equity firm Active Investors, will retain smaller stakes.How Rapha pedalled its way to successMr Mottram said the investment would enable Rapha to accelerate its global expansion plans.”It heralds the start of the next stage of our journey and is testament to the growth and potential that people see in Rapha and in cycling,” he added. Rival firms, including Aston Martin shareholder Investindustrial, were reported to have been interested in Rapha, which was valued at a reported £200m.
Founded in London in 2004, selling directly to consumers via its website and from a handful of shops, Rapha is today one of the biggest names in cycling clothing.The firm is popular among serious amateur cyclists, and previously supplied the kit to Team Sky, the leading British professional cycling team that includes Chris Froome, the four-times winner of Tour de France. Rapha saw its revenues grow by 30% in the year to January to £63m.Despite the firm’s current success, Mr Mottram faced difficulties when he was first trying to secure funding to start the business back in 2001.Mr Mottram told the BBC he was seen as a risky investment at the time because it was a number of years before the current boom in the popularity of cycling began.”No bank would touch me,” he said.”Who was really interested in cycling back in 2001 and 2002? It was just something us weirdos did.”Mr Mottram, who had previously worked in brand development, was finally able to secure the funding from six wealthy private investors and “a long trail of friends and family”.The overall investment deal meant that from day one he only had a minority stake in the business.