North West firms stand out at private equity awards

North West firms stand out at private equity awards

Five fast-growing and entrepreneurial North West businesses have been recognised at a unique awards scheme for companies backed by private equity and venture capital investment.

The winners all demonstrated outstanding strategic vision which triggered considerable growth and job creation, showcasing how private equity investment is an integral part of the regional economy.

They include Simon Cooper, founder and chief executive of On The Beach, the online low-cost holiday provider and the management teams at Inprova Group, Citation, Together and Forrest.

Organised by the BVCA – the British Private Equity & Venture Capital Association – and sponsored by business advisers Grant Thornton, the Management Team Awards are the only awards dedicated to the management teams of UK businesses backed by private equity and venture capital.

The winners were announced at a black tie dinner at Manchester’s Hilton, attended by more than 450 people.

Richard Young, director of BVCA Manchester, said: “Private equity investment and exits tend to get all the focus in the media, and all too often the fantastic work that management teams do in growing the business gets overlooked, which is a shame, and is why we launched these awards.

“The winning management teams have done a great job in building fantastic North West businesses. What this tells us is that behind the success of the private equity industry is investment in business growth and management teams are instrumental in delivering this.”

Philip Grindley, partner at Grant Thornton in Manchester said: “It’s great to celebrate the success of entrepreneurial management teams and also the vision and commitment of the private equity firms which have backed them.

“The awards demonstrate again that Manchester and the North West is a real hotbed of private equity talent, creating significant value in the region

“Grant Thornton is passionate about supporting business growth in a vibrant economy so we’re delighted to be working with the BVCA on these awards and congratulate the winning management teams.”


The winners:

Simon Cooper, who founded online travel agency On The Beach in his terraced house in Macclesfield in 2004, and now runs it as a public company, was named Chief Executive of the Year.

Prior to its £240m stock market listing in 2015. On The Beach was backed by Inflexion and originally by Livingbridge.

Judges remarked that he has created “truly impressive business, built on great technology which delivers disruptive flexibility and value to customers.”

Warrington-based procurement specialist Inprova Group, which is backed by LDC, was named winner in the Venture/Growth category.

The independent panel of judges said the business “achieved a great deal in 2015”, not only through organic growth, but by integrating three acquisitions, opening a US base and completing a rebrand.

The winner in the Mid-Market category was Wilmslow health & safety and employment law consultancy Citation, which enjoyed dramatic growth under a new management team led by Chris Morris, who was appointed by private equity backer ECI.

ECI exited Citation with a 5.4x return in February 2016 and the company is now backed by HIG Capital.

Judges said: “Chris Morris and his team did an outstanding job transforming this business over a two-year period from their arrival in 2013.   The judges were particularly impressed with the cultural transformation, which saw the company reduce staff turnover in their contact centre from 130% to 9% pa and the company apply for and win “Sunday Times 100 best companies to work for”.

“At the same time, growth in revenues and value-creating acquisitions enabled ECI to achieve a great exit.”

The winning business in the Large Company segment is Cheadle-based alternative lender Together Money, which has flourished under the part ownership of Equistone Partners Europe.

Judges hailed Together Money’s growth story as an “outstanding success for the region”, and one that deserves a much higher profile.

They added: “In 2015 the company announced profits of £70m on a £1.4bn loan book. The year also saw a rebranding of the group and successful capital market bond issues.”

They also praised the impact made by non-executive chairman Mike McTighe for building “two distinct and very strong boards for the two arms of the group, whilst preserving the core culture created by founder Henry Moser.”

Mike McTighe, said: “Since the time of the investment, the business has demonstrated robust performance, proving resilient in the recessionary period and trading successfully through different economic cycles. The significant growth of the group over the past decade is a testament to the passion and commitment of the leadership team, with Equistone being a highly supportive partner to the business.

“To support our ongoing expansion we’ve invested heavily in our infrastructure and in our staff headcount, which has grown by 78% in the past 10 years.  We currently employ over 460 dedicated colleagues at our Cheadle-based headquarters who make a huge contribution to our success.”

The awards also recognised the management team of a private equity-backed business which demonstrated outstanding Social Responsibility.

This went to Forrest, the building contractor backed by Palatine Private Equity, which demonstrated an impressive commitment to social and community engagement, with 95% of the company’s employees getting involved in community activity and good causes.

Forrest’s partnership with the Footprints Foundation, a charity assisting orphanages in South Africa, was also praised by judges.

The company, based at Westhoughton near Bolton, has sent its staff to South Africa to refurbish facilities and well as raising more than £50,000 through various sporting challenges including five marathons in five days.