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Cloud Solution Provider Ahead Trades One Private Equity Owner For Two Others

Ahead, which is already owned by one private equity firm, will be acquired by Centerbridge Partners in conjunction with Berkshire Partners in a move it expects will provide the resources to grow its cloud-native application and services business.

Enterprise cloud solution provider Ahead said it will be acquired by two private equity firms in preparation for a new wave of growth in the business of helping clients with their digital transformation activities.

Chicago-based Ahead has been owned by New York-based private equity firm Court Square Capital Partners since 2015. New York-based private equity firm Centerbridge Partners is planning to acquire a majority stake in Ahead, while Boston-based Berkshire Partners will acquire a minority stake.

The Ahead management team will also own a significant position in the company.

[Related: 5 Things To Know About The Three-Way Deal Between Ahead, Data Blue And Sovereign Systems]

Details about the acquisition price and the actual breakdown in ownership were not provided.

Ahead is ranked number 36 in CRN‘s Solution Provider 500 list of companies.

Court Square Capital Partners‘ move to sell its stake in Ahead is not out of sync with typical private equity plans, said Tom Pohlmann, executive vice president of customer success and chief marketing officer for Ahead.

“It‘s been our majority shareholder for five years,” Pohlmann told CRN. ”Three to five years is normal for a private equity company to hold an investment. Centerbridge is a larger firm, which makes this an exciting time for us. The new investors validate our strategy.”

Centerbridge Partners and Berkshire Partners are looking to invest in the growth of Ahead, Pohlmann said.

“They don‘t see us as a turnaround or a distressed company,” he said. ”When Court Square invested in us, our annual revenue was about $365 million, and this year it’s about $1.3 billion, including organic and inorganic growth.”

Pohlmann said Ahead has not yet decided how it will invest to expand yet.

“Centerbridge is a large and mature private equity firm,” he said. ”They‘ll do a deep dive on our strategy.”

When asked whether future mergers and acquisitions might be a part of that future investment, Pohlmann declined to answer directly.

“We want to expand into a national platform and grow our waterfront of services,” he said. ”How we get there has yet to be determined.”

Ahead has been an acquisitive company as of late.

Ahead in July of 2019 acquired Link Solutions Group, a provider of storage, compute and networking solutions to enterprise customers in the Midwest.

Ahead in late 2019 merged with Data Blue, which was also a part of the Court Square Capital Partners portfolio, and at the same time acquired Sovereign Systems. Ahead in January then acquired Platform Consulting Group for that company‘s cloud-native application capabilities and Dell Technologies expertise.

Platform Consulting Group gave Ahead its first entry into the cloud-native development space, Pohlmann said.

“We have traditionally been focused on on-premises,” he said. ”That was our first step to move up into the application layer. And that‘s a direction we want to grow in. We want to evolve and expand out of our core data center space.”

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