NORTH East motor group Benfield made its biggest ever acquisition with the purchase of Audi dealer Colebrook and Burgess.

Kevin Brown of Pacifica Group (second left) receives the award for Fastest Growing Overall Business

NORTH East motor group Benfield made its biggest ever acquisition with the purchase of Audi dealer Colebrook and Burgess.

The dealer turned over more than £140m last year. Benfield took on the 279 staff working at the North Tyneside firm, and said the deal would increase its sales by a third to £500m.

The co-founder of building services group Northern Bear quit the business with immediate effect. Following Graham Forrest’s resignation, the Chester-le-Street company said it would look at the board’s composition to “ensure that the talent that exists within the business is being utilised most appropriately”. The following month, Northern Bear announced its half-year revenues had risen by nearly 30% and was also enjoying a resurgence in the housebuilding sector thanks to order books rising to their busiest level in years.

Greggs boss Ken McMeikan lashed out at Communities Secretary Eric Pickles over the Government’s decision to safeguard weekly bin collections.

An “angry” McMeikan said there were “a million and one other things this money could go on”. McMeikan has been trying to get funding to widen the firm’s breakfast clubs for children in poverty.

Work started on a £3.2m extension to Newcastle International Airport, which will add more than 5,000 square feet to the terminal when it is completed next spring.

US-based Lear Corporation said it was investing £10m to create the UK’s largest foam-making plant in Sunderland, a move which would create more than 300 jobs.

Start-up business Inova Power said it was on the verge of securing a £30m investment for its four-step process which takes hydrogen from water and uses it to create power for cars.

Managing director Mark Nailis said the money would “provide the funding for the next stage”.

Axa opened new offices in the centre of Middlesbrough, creating 450 jobs in the process.

The company said it would be moving 100 staff from its Stockton offices to ease congestion, and would be taking up most of the 40,000 square feet Zetland Buildings.

Operations director Dave Fretter said: “The business is going really well and we are now able to expand our help teams to continue our high level of customer service.”

The first 100 staff began their induction programme at the Teesside Cast Products plant.

New owner SSI had pledged to take on 1,000 staff when it took over the Redcar facility earlier in the year.

The Teesside Local Enterprise Partnership reacted angrily to a report from the Centre for Cities, which said it had made “limited progress” since launching a year ago.

The research and policy unit said Teesside had not yet published a full strategy or indicated its priorities, but Tees Valley Unlimited managing director Stephen Catchpole said the report was “fundamentally flawed and wrong”.

Pacifica Group was named the fastest-growing North East company for 2011 in the year’s Ward Hadaway Fastest 50 Awards. The Chester-le-Street company was also named the region’s fastest-growing medium-sized company for the year.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer