When Graham Thornton tried to sell his tennis-court business five years ago, advisers told him it was almost worthless. ‘At the time I was caught between retiring or doing something else,’ says Thornton. ‘I suppose their judgment spurred me into action.’ Thornton went on to buy an ailing artificial-grass maker, Nordon Enterprises, and expand his business, building running tracks and hockey pitches. The company supplies public schools as well as private sports clubs and councils. It won a £1.1m contract to build a running track and synthetic pitches for the Millennium Youth Games, held in Southampton this year. G Thornton, which was founded in 1978, now builds about 15 artificial sports pitches and three running tracks a year and claims to control 15% of the British market. The change in direction has boosted sales of the Lancashire company by 115% a year, from £616,000 in 1996 to £6.1m in 1999.
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