Long-time butcher boss Michael Morton says the Mad Butcher lost friends during its six years owned by public company Veritas Investments.

Mad Butcher is again family-owned after Morton and partner Julie Leitch, daughter of founder Sir Peter Leitch, bought back the business from Veritas for $8 million - a fraction of the $40m the NZX-listed company purchased it for in 2013.

Leitch and Morton each have a 50 per cent shareholding in the company.

Morton was chief executive of Mad Butcher under Veritas' ownership, he was the company's largest shareholder and served on the its board until June this year.


During the height of the butcher chain's success there were 40 stores. Today, there are 29.

Morton said the sale to Veritas had not gone as he had expected.

"It wasn't what I thought it was going to be. There were growing pains as we went and sometimes we were growing for the sake of growing," he said.

"I thought we could sell it and I'd exit out of the business but that hasn't been the case and I think we have something to prove again with the business which is why we bought it back."

The franchisor business was sold to Yogg Limited in December 2017.

Veritas shareholders approved the sale of the business and its assets during a special meeting held in Auckland in March earlier this year.

The change in ownership had enabled the brand to now focus on long term growth as opposed to short term growth, he said.

"Being a public company and a private company, there's a different vision. One is all about profit now and a private company has a longer term idea of profit and sustainability," Morton said.


"We're going to take a very long term approach and work back in with the franchisees.

"We were friends with all of the franchisees previously, and the same with all of the suppliers, a lot of that went under the public company."

Morton said he hoped to restore the brand to what it was, and to expand the number of stores throughout the country.

"I want to get growth back into the brand and then look to expand it again," he said. "We want to get back to the community spirit that we used to do."

Mad Butcher says meat would be between 20 to 30 per cent more expensive if it wasn't around.
Mad Butcher says meat would be between 20 to 30 per cent more expensive if it wasn't around.

He said working under Veritas had taught him the trials and tribulations of public and private business ownership.

"I hadn't been part of a public company before, I learnt a lot of things and the demands of being a public company, but I do really enjoy private company ownership over public company ownership because sometimes you can try and make decisions to suit the market rather than the right thing to do for the brand."

Morton said there were a number of reasons franchisees went under during Veritas ownership, citing competition, tighter margins and supply issues.

"We are competing everyday with what a farmer can sell overseas for - it's very much that Fonterra type model," he said.

"You only need to look at the prices [of meat] where there isn't a Mad Butcher to where prices are where there is one and you'll see there's a significant difference.

"If we weren't around people would end up paying more for their meat."

Mad Butcher founder Sir Peter Leitch (left), with owners Julie Leitch and Michael Morton.
Mad Butcher founder Sir Peter Leitch (left), with owners Julie Leitch and Michael Morton.

He said consumers would be pay between 20 and 30 per cent more for their meat at supermarkets if its stores were not around.

First Retail Group managing director Chris Wilkinson said the Mad Butcher brand had been severely damaged and it would take a lot to reprise its reputation.

"The only saviour will likely to be active re-engagement and commitment by Peter Leitch - back fronting promotions, supporting the business network and steering the group's future," Wilkinson said.

"Consumers - and commercial stakeholders will be expecting this."

Wilkinson said reverting to a 'back to basics' approach was imperative for the chain if it was to restore confidence within the market.

"Mad Butcher needs to look at how it can again stand out now the market has become even more crowded and competitive. Once known for its bold and brash marketing, it needs to find a new and audacious 'edge' in the marketplace.

"Unless the brand can shake off past stigmas then it's likely to be just another 'also ran' in an increasingly unforgiving market.