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Case study: Harper Macleod and The Walled Garden

We often talk about the benefits to our clients of Harper Macleod being a ‘full service’ law firm. In practice, this means that we are able to advise you on all your legal requirements, with specialist lawyers on hand no matter how diverse those needs might be. For one of the many family businesses we work with, this aspect of Harper Macleod was essential to helping them achieve their goals.

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The Walled Garden Trading Company – their story

Gordon Castle in the heart of beautiful Speyside in the Highlands of Scotland is one of Scotland’s finest sporting estates with an array of traditional country sports includes eight miles of fly-fishing beats with ghillie support on the River Spey. However, in 2012 the Gordon Lennox family decided that to build a sustainable business for future generations, it had to be more than that.

The stunning 15th Century Gordon Castle has become the epicentre of a modern estate business based on the best traditional values.

Central to everything, the family launched a major project to reinvigorate the Walled Garden within the Castle estate grounds, and started to produce luxury goods with the ingredients it grows – all branded with a ‘G’ motif found in an old castle prayer book.

The Gordon Castle brand is fast becoming a premium one and a key part of the project, with products ranging from food & drink to health & beauty with the award-winning Gordon Castle Gin available for purchase at some of the UK’s most prestigious stores.

An onsite restaurant makes the very most of the estate’s produce while the castle is available for exclusive hire. There are also beautiful self-catering holiday cottages. Weddings, conferences, client entertainment … the list goes on.

Gordon Castle Estate

How Harper Macleod helped

We pride ourselves on building strong, longstanding relationships and work with clients at all stages of the life of their business. In particular, we have extensive experience advising family owned and owner-managed businesses.

Our sector focus means that we have a deeper understanding of the areas in which our clients operate, with our Food & Drink knowledge key in this instance.

Chris Kerr, a Partner in the Corporate team at Harper Macleod, has worked with Angus Gordon Lennox and his wife Zara since 2013. Since then, our advice has spanned the legal disciplines, with a team from Harper Macleod advising on issues including:

  • Corporate structuring
  • Commercial contracts and agreements
  • Property and leases
  • Brand and intellectual property
  • Licensing
  • Employee incentivisation

Chris said: “When Angus and Zara came to see me they literally laid out their plans on the table. It was an impressive vision, their dream, and it centred around making the most of the Walled Garden and everything that Gordon Castle could represent. This is a real family business and we bought into their dream from the start, and worked closely with them on the areas where we could help them make it a reality.

“We helped structure a new company, The Walled Garden Trading Company, which would best fit their purposes as they grew their own ingredients and produced a fantastic stream of branded products. The family was making a significant investment in this project, and we were able to help them structure it in the best way possible to make use of reliefs such as the Enterprise Investment Scheme.

“We thought about their intellectual property, ensuring that all their trade marks were in place and that the Gordon Castle brand – possibly the most valuable of all their assets – was protected.

“Licensing was crucial – onsite, offsale and online. The location now boasts a restaurant, events venue and shop, from which they can sell award-winning branded Food & Drink products including a small-batch premium gin, craft beer and cider.

“There were property considerations too, allowing the new company to lease the required parts of the estate from the traditional estate business. Commercial contracts play a huge part in an enterprise such as this and we worked on distribution agreements for their products.”

Looking to the future

Four years on, the Walled Garden project is still growing as the brand rolls out across the UK and beyond. Harper Macleod is helping the family look at how they can raise more funding with discussions over share issues and further investment, among other opportunities.

Loyalty is important for a family business such as this, both from the patrons and staff, with strategies such as employee share options one way in which the wider Gordon Castle family can benefit from being part of the business for the long term.

We’ve also helped them meet like minded entrepreneurs, businesses and other luxury brands to explore ways in which our network can help to grow their network.

What they say about us

Angus Gordon Lennox said: “Ours has always been a very ambitious project, so to make it a success required everyone involved – including our professional advisers - to buy into our vision and work towards a common goal. We had to build a brand and make products on top of what we do on the estate so having one law firm that could advise on every aspect, change direction as we did and move at the pace we need to move at, was essential.”

“Chris and the rest of the team at Harper Macleod have done that, and become part of how we achieve what we set out to. We were thinking differently, innovating and moving away from the way things were done before – that mindset seems to be one we share with all of the Harper Macleod people we have dealt with. The project is not finished yet, but I have every confidence that it will continue to be a success and I regularly recommend the firm to anyone else I feel would benefit from their assistance.”

Get in touch

To find out more about how Harper Macleod can help you, please get in touch with a member of our teams.