After months of scandal and schemes and speculation, it’s official—Norton Motorcycles (UK) has been snapped up TVS Motorcycles. Reuters reported that TVS Motor, India’s third-largest motorcycle maker, has bought iconic British brand for $20 million as part of a distress sale.
The all-cash transaction, which went down last month, will have the Indian firm take control of the 122-year-old brand for 16 million pounds ($19.98 million) through one of its overseas subsidiaries. According to TVS’s joint managing director Sudarshan Venu, “Norton presents us with an immense opportunity to scale globally,” and that his firm would offer “full support for Norton to regain its full glory.”
Founded in 1898, Norton was one of Britain’s last remaining motorcycle manufacturers, however mismanagement by the previous owner, Stuart Garner, has left the company in huge debt, along with countless unfulfilled orders of its V4, Commando and Atlas models. According to BDO’s official reports, Norton Motorcycles owed £4.04 million to Metro Bank (its only secured creditor), and £7.2 million to unsecured creditors. In total, Norton businesses owed creditors a total of £14 million.
Last week’s purchase was made by an indirect subsidiary of TVS Motor Company, Project 303 Bidco Limited, a UK company specially set up two weeks ago to make the deal. President and CEO of TVS Motor Company, Kunnath Narayanan Radhakrishan, is listed among its directors.
According to the announcement from TVS, the sale only concerns “certain assets of Norton Motorcycle Holdings Limited and Norton Motorcycles (UK) Limited”. That’s to say that TVS has only purchased two of the four businesses under Stuart Garner’s Norton umbrella, leaving behind the cash-strapped Donington Hall Estates and the Priest House Hotel. As a result, while all of the current employees’ contracts have been transferred to the new owner, according to BDO’s statement, TVS can only occupy the existing manufacturing premises for the next six months.
While the takeover is a blow to British motorcycle purists, TVS has undoubtedly saved the iconic name from the history books, with the manufacturer, which accounted for 2.82 million of India’s 19.3 million bike sales last year, hoping to revive and expand it.
TVS currently produces primarily mopeds and scooters destined for Asian markets, though it has previously partnered with BMW to manufacture the G 310 GS and G 310 models in India. Some observers in India were surprised by the timing, as it’s been more than 20 days of a complete lockdown for the country’s automotive segment, but what’s more likely is that TVS is looking toward the future; Norton’s expertise in the cruiser segment will bolster TVS in its brewing battle with industry leader Royal Enfield. Indian outlets report that the cruiser market is growing in that country, with a first new cruiser model expected from the Bajaj/Triumph partnership in the next year or so. Norton’s portfolio also boasts larger-displacement models than what TVS has offered until now, which opens up new markets for the Chennai-based manufacturer. In fact, TVS has said it plans to move forward with some of the bikes Norton previously developed under Stuart Garner’s lead, including the two 650cc Atlas Nomad and Ranger models, both powered by a Chinese Zongshen parallel-twin motor. TVS also mentioned that development of the Commando Dominator and V4 RR lines will continue as well.