Innocent’s founders sell up to Coca-Cola

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Coca-Cola is to take complete control of Innocent Drinks after the smoothie company’s three founders agreed to sell almost all their remaining shares to the American drinks giant.

The deal will see Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright step away from day-to-day involvement with the company they founded in 1999.

Mr Reed had previously said he would have to be “dragged out kicking and screaming” from Innocent (Other OTC: INCT - news) in response to reports that the co-founders were due to sell the remainder of their stake.

Yesterday, he said that “any great business has to outlive its original founders”. He noted that he, Mr Balon and Mr Wright will retain a small stake and will sit on the company’s executive committee.

Coca-Cola will purchase almost all of the 42pc stake the founders had retained after the American company bought 58pc of Innocent in 2010 for around £65m.

The size of the latest deal was not disclosed but is understood to represent a significantly higher valuation of the London-based business, reflecting the fact that its sales have almost trebled over the past three years.

Mr Reed said Innocent will continue to be run as a “separate business unit it will look and feel the same”. He added that the founders will spend more time with the company’s charitable arm and work on “personal projects”.