Ahead Acquires CDI In $3.7B Digital Transformation Channel Play

IT solution provider Ahead has been talking with Computer Design & Integration since 2019, but about one year ago got serious about combining the two to scale their business both technically and geographically and to be better able to bring new capabilities to existing customers of both companies.

IT solution provider Ahead this week unveiled the acquisition of Computer Design & Integration, better known as CDI, in a move the company said creates a $3.7 billion global digital transformation powerhouse.

The combination of Chicago-based Ahead, ranked No. 32 on CRN’s 2023 Solution Provider 500 list, and New York-based CDI, ranked No. 50 on that same list, gives Ahead not only a deeper portfolio of technical capabilities in hybrid IT and other areas, it also gives the solution provider a major presence in the northeastern U.S. as well as expanded worldwide coverage.

With the acquisition, for which no dollar value was provided, CDI CEO and President Rich Falcone has assumed the role of Ahead president. He now reports to Ahead Founder and CEO Daniel Adamany (pictured).

[Related: M&A Adviser To Solution Providers: To Boost Valuation, Get To 50 Percent Recurring Revenue]

Ahead and CDI are both private equity-backed companies.

Ahead was first acquired by Court Square Capital Partners starting in 2015, but in 2020 was acquired by Centerbridge Partners in conjunction with Berkshire Partners. Berkshire in 2022 acquired a majority of Ahead, with Centerbridge remaining as a minority investor.

CDI was owned by One Equity Partners.

Ahead has known CDI for a long time, Adamany said.

“I knew the founder, Eric Baker, and I actually met with Rich Falcone, the CEO, back in 2019,” Adamany told CRN. “They were evaluating their options. The timing for both of us wasn't great. They ended up going with private equity. I kept in touch with them. And Rich and I met again in January of last year. It was time. They were ready to go to market.”

It was CDI’s culture and people which first attracted Ahead, Adamany said.

“I know a lot of people there, so I knew it was a great company,” he said. “Rich has done a phenomenal job scaling that business. I think it was around $350 million in 2019. He grew it to $1 billion through acquisitions and organically, more organic than acquisition. So he did a great job growing the business.”

Geography also played a major role, Adamany said.

“They're predominantly in New York, New Jersey, and Philly,” he said. “We have little presence there. We have a couple of clients. So this was on our roadmap. There aren't a lot of material players in that market that would be interesting for us to acquire. An acquisition in that area has been in the works for a long time. So we finally got it done.”

Prior to the acquisition, there was some minor customer overlap, but only one large customer in common, Adamany said.

“On the other side, if you look at our manufacturing partners, there’s a huge alignment,” he said. “So that helps with integration, with go-to-market, with everything. So it really fit in nicely.”

Both Ahead and CDI has an international presence, Adamany said. Ahead last year opened an office in India where it had 150 people, while CDI brings a 100-person India-based team to the combined company. CDI also brings an EU (European Union) presence that Ahead did not have. However, he said, in both cases it is mainly to serve U.S. clients’ presence there. There are no plans to expand its business to European customer at the present, he said.

On the technology side, Ahead brings to the combined company the custom hardware system and supply chain integration facility it acquired last year from MBX Systems, along with its Hatch IT lifecycle management capabilities, Adamany said. The company also has a fairly large cloud and data practice.

CDI brings new scale to Ahead’s current capabilities, as well as some unique capabilities such as a cybersecurity “red team” service, he said. Both companies also have good-sized managed services businesses, he said.

“So I'd say within the practices that we're both in, there's 80 [percent] or 90 percent overlap, but there is 10 percent that we have that they don't have, and vice versa,” he said.