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Family firm AWL in new hands after 34 years

10 Jun 2021

A North East couple are heading towards a well-earned retirement after selling the non-destructive testing firm they’ve run for 34 years to the UK’s leading inspections, testing and certification business.

Heather and Tony Williamson have sold family-run AWL Inspection & NDT Services to the Warrington-based British Engineering Services Group (BES) for an undisclosed sum.

The couple’s two daughters, Emma and Amy, are staying with the South Shields-based business as part of the sale, along with the rest of its 12-strong team.

While Heather is retiring now, Tony is staying on as a consultant to the business, with Emma stepping into her father’s shoes to lead its operations.

Jonathan Waters and Abby Dorani of the corporate & commercial team at Hay & Kilner Law Firm in Newcastle provided legal advice to the AWL management team on the transaction, with colleagues Chris Anderson and Sarah Hall working on the commercial property and employment law aspects of the deal respectively.

Heather and Tony originally set up AWL in Jarrow in 1987 and work with a wide range of well-known clients right across the UK, including National Grid, Murphy Group, Fastflow Energy Services, SGN and global energy technology firm Baker Hughes.

It provides non-destructive testing and inspection services tailored to the specific needs of each client and industry, including ultrasonic, magnetic particle and visual inspection, materials sampling and radiographic testing.

Heather Williamson says: “We’ve come a long way over the last 34 years, working on major projects all over the UK and right around the world, and we still love the work we do.

“The business’s success has been down to the hard work, commitment and dedication of our team, many of whom have been with us for decades, and it was important that they would be looked after by whoever we eventually chose to take the business forward.

AWL approved image logo

“We’ve had a number of offers over the years, but until BES approached us, we haven’t ever felt that they offered the right fit in terms of either valuation or a full understanding of the business.

“BES had clearly done their research before they came to us. We liked the outlook and ideas of the management team and are happy to be leaving the business in a position where it can continue to thrive and grow.

“The members of the Hay & Kilner team were thorough, approachable and helpful, and kept us fully informed as we moved through the different stages of the transaction.”

Dave Vaughan, managing director of testing and consultancy at BES, adds: “The brilliant AWL team have the same passion, drive and enthusiasm we enjoy across the wider British Engineering Services Group.

“Their people are experts in the world of NDT and will really reinforce the services provided by our existing team.”

Jonathan Waters, managing partner at Hay & Kilner Law Firm, says: “Heather and Tony have built and run a highly-regarded and successful business over almost four decades and fully deserve to enjoy the fruits of their labours.

“It’s been a pleasure to work with them and their family on the completion of the sale and we wish all parties every success in the future.