Continuum CEO Michael George Talks ConnectWise And Arnie Bellini’s Legacy

An Indelible Mark

With years of experience in tech and private equity, Continuum CEO Michael George spoke with CRN Monday about the news that ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini was stepping down as CEO and had sold the company to Thoma Bravo.

George said Bellini poured his heart and soul into creating a thriving company in ConnectWise as well as a community in IT Nation. George said the erstwhile leader has left an indelible mark on an industry he created with a platform that revolutionized how IT is put to work in businesses across the country.

ConnectWise, like Continuum, is now owned by Thoma Bravo, which has a portfolio of 200 tech platforms worth a combined $50 billion. George’s message to ConnectWise’s new management is “Welcome to the family.”

What are your thoughts on Arnie (pictured) stepping away?

How can you not respect what Arnie has accomplished? This guy put in a lifetime career, and more than building a great company, he was at the center of building a great industry, a great market.

The guy gave his heart and soul and his life to building a whole industry that was very, very successful. We take great pride as a company at Continuum in what we do for the industry as a whole. More than just what we do for our employees, and the economic outcomes and everything else. That’s great. But that’s all a byproduct for something much bigger, frankly. I think he deserves an extraordinary amount of credit for his contributions to the industry as a whole.

Bellini mentioned that through the sale many ConnectWise colleagues would become millionaires because of stock they were given as employees, but you pointed out that isn’t the only place he created wealth.

One of the pieces I saw published today said that they created about 70 millionaires at ConnectWise. And I think that’s wonderful. I also think that’s not giving him the full credit he deserved.

Taking credit for having created 70 millionaires at ConnectWise was only telling part of the story. The more valuable one, and the one that we take a lot more pride in, frankly, is the hundreds if not thousands of millionaires that they’ve created and we’ve created, out of MSPs, the whole MSP market. Arnie spent 37 years of his life—this is his life’s work—he should also take credit for having created an industry of millionaires and a very, very successful company.

Is ConnectWise in a good spot after the sale?

He’s built a great team. I’ve gotten to know [ConnectWise CEO] Jason [Magee] (pictured) quite well, and he’s got a great team of people in there that have been running that organization on a day-to-day basis for a while. Part of the responsibility of an industry leader is also to know when it’s time to step away and let other people have a go at it. I think that’s exactly what he’s done. He’s going to be an adviser, which I think is right. I think he’s going to do a great job of shepherding it from a strategic perspective, but I think he’s going to get out of the way, on a day-to-day basis, for a really strong management team that he’s put in place. I think that’s part of the pride and joy of being a good business leader.

He’s a man who has earned the right to spend his time any way he wants. I don’t just mean that from an economic perspective. I mean that at a more holistic level.

Arnie was a force in the industry. I think Jason did a really eloquent job of saying ‘Look, I’m not Arnie.’ And he’s going to be smart to try not to be Arnie, but to be the 2.0 leadership that the company needs. They don’t need a continuation of Arnie, because if they did Arnie should have stayed. I think they’re going to need another brand of leadership. Another generation of leaders in the company.

Will this deal change the way Continuum does business?

I don’t think so. I don’t think it does at all. I’ve had a relationship with Arnie and now Jason for a while. These guys aren’t new to me. We’ve had a growing and budding relationship. We intersect, with not only APIs but other cooperative work in and around their PSA. If you look at their PSA and our RMM vendors we both, together, at that intersection, have some of the largest, best and most profitable partners there are in the marketplace. I see us furthering that. I don’t think Thoma Bravo facilitates that in any way, or changes that in any way.

Do you foresee more consolidation among MSP platform providers?

We just got bought by Thoma Bravo less than two years ago, so we’re not for sale. We’re not up for grabs or anything else. They just bought ConnectWise so that’s locked down. The Vista acquisition is only a little more than a year old, so I think that’s pretty fresh. I don’t think that’s going anywhere anytime soon.

The only company that might be up for grabs is the one that’s been owned the longest by the private equity world, which is Kaseya. Kaseya is now a six-year-old entity. They’ve been owned by Insight for six years. They glued that together with Unitrends, which is a seven-year-old investment. I think that’s the only thing that’s reached its life expectancy inside one of these private equity companies, that might be considered ‘up for grabs.’ That’s really the only company I see that would be considered available, if you will. The rest of them are all new.

People make these investments. They want to see transition and growth and change and benefits. They don’t just buy them and sell them. There’s no economic benefit to that. They buy them and then they institute certain changes. They don’t sell them in a year or two, they sell them after they’ve made some meaningful changes in the business. In the case of Kaseya, that’s a little old news now.

I’m not telling you that because I know something. I don’t know anything more than anyone else does.

Any thoughts for Arnie, Jason and ConnectWise?

I think that my words to Arnie are congratulations for all you’ve accomplished and thank you for all you’ve contributed to the community. To Jason and the team, congratulations. You’re also a big part of what got the company here. And welcome to the family of pretty extraordinary companies inside of the world’s largest, most successful tech private equity investor on the planet, Thoma Bravo. They have made over 200 platform investments like this. The value of those companies in combination is in excess of $50 billion. There’s just no arguing with success. People can have opinions all they want. Thoma Bravo is by far and is unequivocally the most successful private equity investor the world has ever known. So to that, to Jason and his team, congratulations and welcome to the community.