LDC has completed an investment to support the £50million management buyout of Clifford Thames (“the business”), the UK market leading automotive data firm.
Headquartered in Chelmsford, Clifford Thames is a specialist provider of outsourced services to the global automotive aftermarket parts, service and repair industry. The business provides in-depth data and operational expertise to its customer base which comprises some of the world’s leading Vehicle Manufacturers (VMs), National Sales Companies (NSCs), franchised dealer networks, bodyshops, fleet and leasing companies.
With a growing reputation across the international automotive industry for its state-of-the-art IT platforms and data management solutions, Clifford Thames’ delivers efficiencies and profitable growth to its customers; whether directly, by increasing parts sales, or indirectly by improving brand loyalty and quality of service; and particularly in areas such as the creation, maintenance and delivery of parts data, integrated approaches to dealer products and processes and the support of genuine manufacturer parts sales to non-franchised repairers and workshops. The business has also made a significant investment in ATHORISTM, an online service, maintenance and repair software platform used by the fleet industry and rapidly becoming the de-facto standard in France Clifford Thames’ first launched market.
Originally established in 1948, Clifford Thames has more than 450 employees operating from a strategic network of offices in ten countries across Europe, Asia Pacific and North America, together with outsource centres in Krakow in Poland and Chennai in India.
The business has reported significant revenue growth in recent years as a result of its customer-led data services, and the roll-out and increasing demand for its ATHORISTM technology.
LDC has backed Clifford Thames’ experienced senior management team, which is led by Chief Executive Calvin Barnett. LDC’s investment strategy will be to partner with this high calibre team to deliver continued organic growth across all channels of the business, including the potential roll-out of ATHORISTM into relevant new global markets, whilst also helping to identify and support strategic acquisition opportunities.
The deal was transacted by LDC’s Reading team, led by Managing Director Yann Souillard, together with Investment Executives Christian Bruning and Jonathan Caswell. Christian Bruning will join the board as Non-Executive Director with immediate effect.
Christian Bruning, LDC Investment Director said: “Clifford Thames is a highly-regarded market-leading business that is being driven by growing demand from the global automotive industry for highly efficient data management solutions.
“We are partnering with a high-quality management team led by Calvin Barnett, who has considerable knowledge and experience in the automotive industry and business process outsourcing market. Clifford Thames is supported by a well-invested infrastructure through international operations in Europe, Asia and America, and going forward, we will work closely with the team to execute the next phase of the business’ growth and development, both organically and through acquisition.”
Octopus Investments (“Octopus”) has supported Clifford Thames over three funding rounds since 2010. This deal has given Octopus the opportunity to continue its support for the company by reinvesting all of its proceeds.
Grant Paul-Florence, a member of the Specialist Finance team at Octopus, said: “We are pleased to remain invested in Clifford Thames. We have built a strong relationship with Calvin Barnett and his team and are highly supportive of their growth strategy. We have backed the team with funding to develop the ATHORISTM technology since inception in 2012 and believe this will be a significant driver of organic growth.”
Commenting on LDC’s investment, Calvin Barnett, Chief Executive of Clifford Thames said: “LDC’s investment brings additional strategic input and financial backing to our business and will help us to deliver ambitious growth plans. Our successful service model continues to be well received by the automotive industry and we are keen to capitalise on the numerous opportunities that exist for profitable growth with LDC’s support.
“From the very start of our discussions with LDC, we had no doubt that they would be the right private equity company for us. They are keen to engage, to learn and to support, open in all areas of dialogue and discussions creating a real partnership approach.
“As well as increasing the pace of organic growth and building on our position both here in the UK and within existing international markets, we are keen to pursue appropriate acquisition opportunities to increase our rate of growth in core areas alongside expansion into new ones.”
Ed Hough, Chairman of Clifford Thames added: “Clifford Thames has ‘come of age’ and is embarking on a new adventure under the umbrella of LDC with its impressive record of financial support.
“LDC negotiated, in good faith, throughout the whole exercise and delivered, and stuck to, the agreed value and deal structure. I have no doubt that the combination of LDC and the new management team will deliver a thrilling future for the business’ new shareholders and, particularly, its loyal staff.”
LDC completed the transaction with support from advisors including KPMG who acted for the vendors. Osborne Clarke were legal advisors to LDC and Newco, while Olswang were legal advisors to the vendors and Newco. Baker Tilly provided financial due diligence and Roland Berger provided commercial due diligence.
The deal with Clifford Thames forms part of LDC’s continuing strategy of investing in leading mid-market businesses, backing high calibre ambitious management teams.