ZRG Partners Acquires Toft Group

With funding in place, ZRG Partners chocks up another M&A deal – its fourth this year. This recent acquisition is expected to bring greater depth to the search firm’s global life sciences practice and add $10 million in annual revenues to its top line. Here’s the latest.

November 14, 2019 – ZRG Partners, one of the fastest growing executive search firms, continues its rapid expansion to super boutique status by acquiring Toft Group, a smaller rival focused on the life sciences and biotech sectors. Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Toft Group will operate as a ZRG company, focused on supporting client needs for senior life science professionals. The acquisition will add depth to the existing global life sciences practice at ZRG. The transaction will add about $10 million in annual revenues to ZRG and bolster the firm’s direct presence in the global life science sector in which it maintains a strong market presence in the top tier pharma space.

With this acquisition, ZRG will report revenues anticipated to exceed $65 million in 2019 and will have over 200 global team members supporting clients across a number of industry and functional disciplines. Robin Toft, founder and chair of the Toft Group, will continue in her role with the firm where she will build out the platform and help with growth at ZRG as a senior leader.

Toft Group has a sector focus in working with early stage life science organizations with a special niche in innovation-driven companies at the intersection of biotech and high tech. Additionally, Toft Group has a strong reputation for actively promoting diversity in recruiting. Ms. Toft, the author of WeCan, a holistic look at preparing diverse leaders for productive careers as executives and board members, recently participated in a six-person Hunt Scanlon Media panel discussion on the role executive recruiters can play in advancing women.

“Toft Group is the market leader for early stage biotech and life science recruiting,” said Larry Hartmann, CEO of ZRG. “They have built a stellar track record in bringing top talent to their clients, quickly. Combining their sector expertise with the extensive work ZRG is already doing with our 12 life science consultants creates a strong global life science practice. We are thrilled to add Robin to our executive team and welcome the entire Toft Group to the ZRG family.”

Ms. Toft said this is the ideal next chapter for her firm. “The ability to now expand our offerings globally and broaden our offerings working side by side with the ZRG team will allow us to partner at an even deeper level with our client base,” she said. “The functional expertise of ZRG, combined with our sector knowledge and local presence in key West Coast markets, will further define us as the ‘go to’ firm for all life science work.”

“ZRG’s data-driven, tech-enabled search process and its digital platform will even further speed up our ability to service our client base,” said Ms. Toft. “We look forward to continuing to grow our business sector and expand our relationships with our ZRG colleagues, who do significant executive search work at the most senior levels.”

Recent Funding . . .  and Acquisition Activity

The purchase of Toft Group marks ZRG’s fourth acquisition this year for the growing search firm following the completion of a recapitalization with RFE Investment Partners, a lower middle-market private equity firm with a long history of investing in growth companies.


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Michael Rubel, managing director at RFE Investment Partners, said his firm is convinced that the human capital services market is ripe for disruption – and fresh thinking. “We are convinced that ZRG Partners is approaching the market with the right blend of experience, leadership and disruptive technology which clearly is resonating with clients who want to acquire top talent globally,” he said. “We also believe that our firm is uniquely positioned to assist Larry and the ZRG team in expanding ZRG’s service offerings and helping fulfill their vision as a significant provider of human capital services through continued hiring, key acquisitions and add-on investments.”

Growth via Acquisition

Here is an abridged overview of the firm’s growth from the Hunt Scanlon Media archives:

In July, ZRG acquired London-headquartered search firm Holker Watkin. The firm now 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 global revenues to ZRG and bolster ZRG’s direct presence in Europe. Holker Watkin president and founder Justin Holker continues in his role leading the business.

“Holker Watkin has built a sector-leading brand and a stellar track record working with top tier consulting professionals with strategy and transformation experience,” said Mr. Hartmann. “The business has been successfully partnering with private equity firms and global multinationals in the search of high-level strategy and transformation talent for senior-level roles and interim assignments.”

In June, the firm acquired certain assets of executive search firm Fiore Global Search. As part of the asset acquisition agreement, Adam Fiore, formerly the managing partner and CEO of Fiore Global Search, joined ZRG as a managing director within its life sciences practice area. Fiore Global Search was founded by Mr. Fiore in 2011 and has completed hundreds of C-suite, VP, and medical director roles for Fortune 500 pharmaceutical and mid-sized, global biotechnology companies.

“Adam and his team have strong expertise in the drug safety and pharmacovigilance areas, which will be leveraged within our global life science practice,” said Mr. Hartmann. “We have been impressed with how Fiore Global has built entire drug safety teams for several top global pharmaceutical companies, including Novartis and Bristol Myers-Squibb. He will be an important part of our global practice in life sciences and adding this area of expertise is quite exciting for us.”


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In May, ZRG acquired certain assets of Dowd Associates, an executive search firm focused on the financial officer’s space. As part of the asset purchase agreement, Dowd Associates’ president and CEO Rich Dowd joined ZRG as a managing director. Mr. Dowd has over 20 years of experience in executive search. In addition to being a known subject-matter expert in treasury search, he also has deep experience in VPs of finance, controller and CFO search work. He becomes a member of ZRG’s financial officer’s practice.

“With Rich on board, we now have additional specialty expertise to support our clients,” said Mr. Hartmann. “We have an experienced team already focused on the CFO function and adding Rich allows us to not only recruit CFOs but help them be more successful by attracting the right talent in this critical function.”

“We are excited about the next chapters of growth for ZRG as we continue our ascent to becoming an even more significant player in the global executive search market and broadening our offering to other areas of human capital services,” said Mr. Hartmann. “Our data-driven approach to human capital and our commitment to delivering seamless services around the globe with our highly collaborative team have been pillars in our growth strategy.”

Mr. Hartmann said he is looking forward to continuing his firm’s growth now that he’s found an investor “that has significant capital to invest behind our proven core growth strategy in tandem with looking at strategic acquisitions to broaden our talent offerings.”

Join Hunt Scanlon next week as Mr. Hartmann and Ms. Toft sit down to discuss their new relationship, their plans for the future and how their deal came about!

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

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