London Search Firms Merge, Supported by PE Investment

Search firms continue to join forces. The latest: London based Dartmouth Partners has merged with Pure Search, backed by Literacy Capital. Let’s go inside the latest deal!

September 20, 2019 – Dartmouth Partners, a recruitment business in London specializing in corporate finance, investment banking, private equity and wealth management, has forged a new partnership with Pure Search, backed by Literacy Capital plc. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Pure, a search firm focused on finding talent in the tax, legal, risk & compliance space, has been led by Chris Nelson and Charles Ferguson for the past 20 years. It has grown to have offices in London, New York, Berlin, Hong Kong and Singapore. Its shareholders were said to have been looking at how best to maximize the potential of the business.

Dartmouth Partners, founded in 2012 by Logan Naidu, is headquartered in London, and has offices in Paris and Frankfurt.

The acquisition allows Dartmouth Partners to continue its global expansion and rapid growth. The deal also allows Pure Search to accelerate its investment in its business. For both firms there will be an increased ability to cross-sell into a combined premium client base.

Literacy Capital invested in Dartmouth in June 2018 to support the firm in expanding its footprint. Since then, Dartmouth has expanded its presence in filling permanent and interim roles. The firm has also launched in the legal and distribution sectors. As a result of increased investment, Dartmouth has grown more than 30 percent year-on-year despite the broader political uncertainty of Brexit and a slowing European economy.

Literacy Capital is a private investment fund that was set up in 2017. Its Chairman, Paul Pindar, was a founder of Capita plc in 1987. He helped to take this business from a valuation of £330,000 to £8.5 billion by the time he retired in 2014.

As a combined business, “we expect to continue going from strength-to-strength, inhabiting the premium end of the recruitment market in specialist sectors that we leads,” said Mr. Naidu of Dartmouth Partners. “The businesses complement each other well and the partnership will also allow more significant investment to grow both brands further.”

Mr. Naidu will become Group CEO. He is said to be on the prowl for more search firm acquisitions.

Market Consolidation

M&A activity, with the support of private equity firms, continues to heat up in the executive search industry. Just recently, Riviera Partners, a recruitment provider specializing in C-level engineering, product and design leader placements, closed a minority investment of $25 million led by private equity firms Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors and ROCA Partners. Following this, Riviera Partners acquired New York-based tech and product leader specialist WorthyWorks.


ZRG Partners Acquires London-Based Holker Watkin
Following recent funding by private equity firm RFE Investment Partners, ZRG Partners expanded with the acquisition of London-headquartered search firm Holker Watkin. The deal’s financial terms were undisclosed.

The firm will operate as a ZRG company, focused on supporting client needs for senior-level strategy professionals on a retained and interim project basis. The transaction is expected to add $11 million in annual revenues to ZRG and bolster ZRG’s direct presence in Europe. Holker Watkin president and founder Justin Holker will continue in his role leading the business as a ZRG company.


“We target high growth companies that bring game changing software, processes and analytics to industries that are often behind the technology curve,” said Nishita Cummings, partner at Kayne Partners Fund. “In the same way that advanced analytics changed the game of baseball, we believe that Riviera’s proprietary technology and processes are changing the way executive recruiting is done. We are thrilled to become an integral part of helping them grow during this exciting time.”

In addition, Diversified Search, backed by investment dollars from private equity firm ShoreView Industries, just acquired Koya Leadership Partners, one of the nation’s top search firms in non-profit and higher education.

“Both ShoreView and firm leadership struck this deal to grow Diversified Search, and that is what we are doing,” said Diversified’s founder and chair Judith M. von Seldeneck. “Our deal with Koya Leadership Partners is just the first of what we expect will be several such deals this year.”

In a good economy such as this one, the war for talent can get extremely competitive, especially in the C-suite, Ms. von Seldeneck said. “Search firms are beginning to see there is strength in numbers — that when you consolidate resources and teams, you each inherit each other’s long-standing client relationships and contacts, which only grows the business faster,” she added. Because networking and relationships are the engine of any search firm, she said, “you’re going to continue to see consolidation for the foreseeable future.”

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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