William Stobart is preparing to take the wheel at Eddie Stobart after shareholders voted in favour of a deal which that sees a romantic return the company founded by his father.

Mr Stobart will return to the company as executive chairman of Greenwhitestar Acquisition Limited, the business’s holding company, to steer Eddie Stobart’s turnaround after a dramatic few months in the history of the Cumbrian-born logistics giant.

His initial focus will be on bolstering Eddie Stobart’s performance over the busy festive period, as Eddie Stobart’s new owners, international investment firm DBAY Advisors, officially completes its takeover.

DBAY alongside the company’s lenders will immediately provide £75 million of liquidity to Eddie Stobart, which has faced an uncertain future amid mounting debts, a £200 million IOU to its lenders and a £2m accounting error that resulted in its shares on the junior AIM stock exchange being suspended in August.

It had also warned that its losses for the first half of 2019 could be higher than £12m.

Mr Stobart, who served as executive chairman of Eddie Stobart Logistics Limited until 2017, stayed silent during the run up to the shareholder vote on Friday, but has been hailed as key to the company’s return to past glories by DBAY.

He will now work alongside the company’s existing management team after shareholders voted by just over 80 per cent in favour of the proposal from DBAY, which will now take a 51 per cent stake in the Eddie Stobart and provide a £55m high interest loan.

Alongside Mr Stobart, the deal also sees the return of DBAY as its owner. The Isle of Man based firm said under its previous ownership between 2014 and 2017, Eddie Stobart had “thrived as a highly profitable, cash generative logistics business”.

“DBAY is confident that Eddie Stobart will return to its previous strength,” it said after the extraordinary general meeting held in London on Friday (December 6).

“Eddie Stobart’s loyal staff are the best in the industry, and we are pleased to be able to provide certainty over their jobs throughout the Christmas period and beyond.”

Eddie Stobart chief executive Sébastien Desreumaux, said the green light for DBAY’s rescue deal gave it the “opportunity to move forward and look to deliver sustainable growth and profitability from a stable footing”

“Our main priority and focus is now continuing to deliver the high levels of services expected by our customers as we move into the busy Christmas period,” he added.

Eddie Stobart customers include the likes of Tesco, Pepsi Co, Nestle, Cooperative, Argos, Coca Cola. It employs around 6,500 people.

In a statement issued prior to the meeting, Eddie Stobart confirmed the Financial Conduct Authority had approved an application for DBAY to take control of the company subject to the outcome of the shareholder vote.

The company said it demonstrated “DBAY's continued progress in securing the finance package Eddie Stobart needs to avoid an impeding liquidity shortfall”.

Both it and DBAY had issued the stark warning that the company risked being taken off the road if the deal was not backed.

In the run-up to the crunch vote, it emerged that Eddie Stobart has debts of £155m and owed its lenders – Allied Irish Bank, Bank of Ireland, BNP Paribas and KBC – a combined £200m relating to breaches of its credit facility.

A waiver had been agreed until December 13, but Eddie Stobart bosses warned if it expired without DBAY’s deal in place there would be “no support from the Lenders to explore alternative options”.

The warning appeared to sharpen the minds of shareholders, who had also been courted by high-profile Cumbrian businessman, and former Eddie Stobart chief executive, Andrew Tinkler.

Mr Tinkler had floated his own proposal to inject £80m of equity funding and restore Eddie Stobart to its former glory through his company TVFB – a proposal he said was “not about building the business up with big, high-interest debts”.

He first expressed an interest in returning to the company he led between 2004 and 2014 in September, but a month later pulled out without explanation when TVFB issued a “No Intention to Bid Statement”.

He did, however, leave in place a number of conditions which could see him return to the battle for the iconic brand. These included if the Eddie Stobart board agreed to an approach and if a firm offer was made for the company.

Last month he did return, shortly after DBAY submitted its rescue bid – following five “put up or shut up” deadlines stretching back to early September – and UK haulier Wincanton walked away, expressing frustration it had not been able to gain access to critical financial information that was key to formulating a bid.

Now, down to a two-horse race, Mr Tinkler, DBAY and Eddie Stobart – who never formally accepted his offer, favouring DBAY’S – had spent the last few weeks rushing to buy up shares and exchanging heavy blows.

Mr Tinkler snapped up a 6.5 per cent stake, while DBAY increased its share to 27 per cent after reportedly bought a stake from under-pressure fund manager, Neil Woodford – who had previously back Mr Tinkler in the High Court case against his sensational dismissal from the Stobart Group board last summer.

It meant that DBAY, William Stobart and other “concert parties” controlled a third of the company, giving it a significant advantage in the shareholder vote.

Mr Tinkler – who repeatedly claimed he had the support of the “vast majority” of shareholders – dangled the carrot of a £20m bridge loan, giving him more time to raise his planned investment, and called into question DBAY’s warning that Eddie Stobart was facing an imminent liquidity issue.

But the Eddie Stobart board and DBAY hit back, saying DBAY’s deal was the only one to have had the backing of its lenders.

Mr Tinkler also claimed to have the backing of Stobart Group, which currently holds only 11.8 per cent of Eddie Stobart shares. Eddie Stobart was spun out of Stobart Group in 2014 and, while it is now headquartered in Warrington, it still has a depot at Lillyhall in West Cumbria.

The firm is one of Cumbria’s best-known exports, achieving what few businesses ever do – cult status, complete with a fan club, branding, and livery recognised across the globe.

Not everyone, however, is seeing the romantic side to this latest chapter for Eddie Stobart.

The Unite union – which represents around 1,000 members employed in driving and warehouse roles at company – had warned against DBAY’s proposal and criticised the Eddie Stobart board’s handling of the situation.

It is now demanding an urgent meeting to “discover what plans DBAY have for the short, medium- and long-term future of the company”.

Its national officer for road transport Adrian Jones said: “The recent financial problems experienced by Stobart’s has led to our members at the company becoming very anxious about their employment – a situation made worse by the lack of information provided.

“Unite hopes that early discussions will pave the way for an improved industrial relations climate with Stobart’s. However, the new owners need to be fully aware that Unite will not allow profits to be ramped up at the expense of our members’ jobs, pay or conditions.”