KKR Is Buying Family-Owned Plumbers Like UK’s Pimlico, Whose Founder Has Regrets

Charlie Mullins' father worked in a toy car factory. His mother was a cleaner. Today Mullins owns a £10 million London penthouse overlooking the Thames. “Tom Jones lives there, believe it or not,” he says, pointing to the apartment above him where the Welsh singer lives.

Mullins can attribute his dazzling rise to the unlikely marriage of high finance and labor. Over four decades, he built a successful plumbing business that eventually employed his children and grandchildren. In late 2021, he sold his company, Pimlico Plumbers Ltd., to Wall Street giant KKR & Co. for £140 million ($178 million). KKR and other private equity firms are looking to buy up thousands of family-run businesses in the U.S. and Europe that provide home services – plumbing, electrical, air conditioning and heating, landscaping and pest control.

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