January 6, 2021 – Global CEO advisory firm Teneo has acquired U.K.-based Ridgeway Partners, an advisory firm specializing in executive search, board appointments and succession planning for a wide range of companies. The acquisition follows a string of mergers that have taken place since the global pandemic began nearly one year ago.
“We are truly delighted to be welcoming the Ridgeway team,” said Declan Kelly, chairman and CEO of Teneo. “CEOs and leading companies today demand integrated services to help address their biggest challenges and opportunities. We believe talent advisory is a critical component of those services and are deeply committed to further building out our global capabilities in this area to best serve Teneo’s clients.”
Ridgeway, headquartered in London, has been built from a small, affiliated business into a sizeable independent partnership. And it has been seeking growth and expansion opportunities in the face of the pandemic. The firm has expertise in board appointments and advisory services to both public and private companies, including a special focus on the appointment of diverse directors. Ridgeway’s functional expertise include executive committee roles in finance, IT/digital, risk and HR, operating across all sectors. In addition, Ridgeway has industry experience in retail financial services, investment banking, asset and wealth management, insurance, consumer markets, oil and gas, and technology.
Make no mistake, these have been sobering days for executive recruiting firms around the globe. Most of them, regardless of size, location, or specialization were caught flat-footed by one of the most sweeping economic crises to ever hit the sector. As a result, the nation’s top search consultants have been resetting expectations throughout 2020 – and, in the process, setting a new course as 2021 looms.
Professional services firms – and executive recruiting outfits in particular – have a long history of finding their way through tough times. The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Many search firms have used this time to dust off their own continuity and succession plans, or to reconsider that merger or acquisition which was something of a nuisance when times were flush. Others have taken a hard look at their capitalization strategies. This crisis, like no other, has driven many of the most well-known and respected brands in the recruiting business to reassess everything about their businesses, top to bottom.
Behind the scenes, this has been an active year for executive recruitment firms. To meet their advisory needs, Hunt Scanlon Media earlier this year launched a new set of solutions to assist search firms and talent solutions providers seeking mergers, acquisitions, or funding connections. Founders Scott A. Scanlon and Christopher W. Hunt sit down to discuss the new venture and the state of the industry.
Sue O’Brien OBE, previous managing partner, will become chairman of Ridgeway and continue to lead the Ridgeway team as part of Teneo, reporting to Chris Wearing, the chairman of Teneo International. The Ridgeway team will also work closely with Nick Claydon, CEO of Teneo UK, and the firm’s more than 300 U.K.-based professionals providing Teneo clients with integrated advisory services.
“Our clients will benefit greatly from Teneo’s global network and broad set of CEO advisory capabilities,” said Ms. O’Brien. “Ridgeway is a market leader in board-level search and shares a passion for promoting diversity in the boardroom with Teneo. Together, through our combined CEO and board relationships, we can significantly expand our talent strategy and advisory services.”
“Sue and her colleagues bring deep expertise in leadership talent strategy and have built long term partnerships with their clients across many industries and geographies,” said Mr. Wearing. “Their strong history and track record on diversity is especially important to us and our clients.”
Ridgeway Partners was established in 2004 as an informal affiliation of two separate businesses in the U.K. and U.S. Both geographies have now independently undergone management buyouts of the original founders. The U.K. business was bought by the existing partners in the U.K. in 2017 and acquired as an independent business by Teneo. This transaction does not apply to the U.S. Ridgeway Partners business.
Armstrong Craven Moves to Employee-Owned Business Platform
Armstrong Craven, headquartered in Manchester, U.K., has become a majority employee-owned business. The firm will continue to be led by joint managing directors Rachel Davis and Peter Howarth. “We have long believed that the well-known benefits of employee ownership, when combined with our extremely dedicated team, will be a recipe for success, and we expect to see our business go from strength to strength under our new co-ownership structure,” the firm said.
“As executive search firms continue to seek ways to scale their brands, and serve clients more holistically, integration is likely to become the new buzzword of 2021,” said Scott A. Scanlon, CEO of Greenwich-based Hunt Scanlon Media. “And the fastest way to build adjacencies is to acquire them,” he added. Recruiting firms have been generally slow to find fresh ways to grow and scale their executive search platforms, he said. “But the pandemic, as well as a push from clients, has accelerated deals across the sector.”
Case in point: Just as recruiting leaders were closing the books on 2020, Caldwell signed a deal to acquire IQTalent Partners. Caldwell CEO John Wallace said the acquisition would “allow us to serve our clients in a more integrated fashion.” Acquiring adjacent talent advisory businesses will be a novel way for search firms to expand in the coming months and years, said Mr. Scanlon. “In our view, integration will become the new buzzword across the recruiting sector in 2021.”
Another industry merger, he noted, will be announced tomorrow with several more transactions already in the pipeline and set to close in Q1. “We expect an incredibly busy year ahead,” he said.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media