Channel programs News

Private Equity Powerhouse Court Square Buys Fast-Growth Superstar Ahead

Steven Burke and Michael Novinson

Ahead, a $250 million Chicago-based solution provider that was No. 98 on CRN's 2015 Fast Growth partner list, is being acquired by Court Square Capital Partners, a private equity powerhouse.

Court Square has been a major player in the solution provider market, acquiring a number of solution providers including CRN Solution Provider 500 behemoth CompuCom and unified communications systems integrator Strategic Products and Services (SPS).

"These are smart money guys that know the solution provider space and have a proven track record of creating meaningful shareholder value," said Martin Wolf, president of martinwolf M&A Advisors, Walnut Creek, Calif., one of the top channel investment advisory deal makers. "I would expect them to build out Ahead with other acquisitions and talent. They've done it before with other solution providers, growing them through acquisitions and organically."

[Related: Private Equity Behemoth Sverica Capital Management Buys Synoptek, One Of The Nation's Largest MSPs]

Ahead plans to leverage the Court Square deal to aggressively develop new solutions in areas such as enterprise service management, cloud infrastructure and mobility, Ahead CEO Daniel Adamany wrote in a blog post Tuesday. These technology areas are rapidly converging, according to Adamany, which should result in a more holistic platform for delivering next-generation services and applications.

Ahead's cloud-oriented solutions made the solution provider attractive to private equity firms looking to tap into an area of sustained growth, Wolf said. Cloud storage is expected to deliver a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28 percent over the next half-decade, hitting $65.4 billion by 2020, according to Wolf.

Ahead has accelerated its growth rate since 2013 thanks to a multi-year strategy focused on helping clients take advantage of technology advances and adding expertise that can help clients deploy cutting-edge technologies, Adamany said.

"I am very excited about our new partnership and the possibilities it will provide," Adamany wrote.

Terms of the deal was not disclosed.

Wolf said he sees the deal as another sign that the private equity market is the optimum route to value for solution providers rather than an initial public offering. "With this kind of institutional money coming into the channel, we are going to see more acquisitions," he said.

Court Square's ability to drive a sharp increase in the value of CompuCom is a great example of the company's solution provider prowess, said Wolf.

In 2007, Court acquired CompuCom from Platinum, another private equity player, for $504 million and then sold the company for a reported $1.1 billion two years ago to private equity giant Thomas H. Lee Partners.

"This company does its homework," said Wolf, referring to Court Square. "The reason most acquisitions don't work is because buyers don't know what they are buying. It may sound simple, but it is not. These guys know exactly what they are buying and how to drive value."

Court Square, for its part, has invested roughly $5 billion in more than 200 transactions over the past two decades, which have returned $14 billion to date. Court Square has been particularly active in the IT services space, acquiring unified communications provider Strategic Products and Services (SPS), No. 74 on the CRN SP 500, in September 2011.

Ahead is one of only 57 companies that is a member of CRN's prestigious Triple Crown club -- making the CRN SP500 (No. 85), Fast Growth (No. 98) and the CRN Tech Elite 250 lists.

Ahead was founded in 2007 by former EMC Global Account Manager Daniel Adamany with what he called the "goal of creating a company that could provide true, comprehensive data center solutions to the mid[size] and large enterprise client."

The company offering cloud services and solutions to more than 400 customers in verticals such as health care, financial services, manufacturing and retail.

Adamany's sharp focus on the midmarket and large enterprise customers with a full solution portfolio has powered the company into the ranks of the most respected solution providers.

Ahead has won numerous awards, including the 2014 EMC U.S. Partner of the Year award and the VCE 2014 Global Partner of the Year.


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