WOOD Mackenzie, the Edinburgh-based energy, mining and metals research group, has changed hands in a £1.1 billion deal that will trigger multi-million pound windfalls for its top management.
Private equity firm Charterhouse Capital Partners, which paid £553 million for a controlling stake in WoodMac three years ago, yesterday said it had sold a 63 per cent holding to rival Hellman & Friedman (H&F).
Under the deal, 340 members of staff who own shares in WoodMac will share a £90m windfall, with an average pay-out of around £250,000.
The payments represent 50 per cent of the value of the employees’ shareholding, with the balance to remain invested in the business. Staff will retain a 24 per cent stake in the firm. A spokesman insisted that it will be “business as usual” for the company and the windfalls will be paid to employees at all levels, “from the executive team to secretaries and office workers”.
It is understood that the firm’s eight-strong management team, led by chief executive Stephen Halliday, are in line for a major slice of the £90m bonanza. They will remain with the business following the deal, which is expected to be completed by the end of August.
Halliday, who joined the firm as an analyst in 1989, said: “We have always been a business which recognises effort and loyalty and we’re proud of our strong egalitarian approach.
“Therefore I’m really pleased that so many of our people are sharing in the rewards of their efforts in building up a business which was valued at around £20m at the time of the employee buy-out just 11 years ago.”
In the year to the end of December 2010, pre-tax profits at WoodMac rose 14 per cent to £48.3m, on turnover 18 per cent higher at £128.1m.
The company had changed hands several times before its buy-out from Deutsche Bank, and in 2005 private equity firm Candover came on board as an investor. Four years later it sold out to Charterhouse.
Halliday added: “The fact that our people will continue to own 24 per cent of the shareholding post-deal underlines their faith in our plans for further strong growth.”
The firm, chaired by former chief executive Paul Gregory, provides analysis to major oil companies and government agencies around the world. It employs some 800 people in total across 21 offices in locations including Brisbane, Houston, Jakarta, Moscow and Tokyo.
It plans to take on some 115 additional employees by the end of the year, with about a quarter of those expected to join its Edinburgh office.
Patrick Healy, deputy chief executive at H&F, said: “Wood Mackenzie and its employee owners are a perfect fit with the investment focus we have at H&F of investing in high growth, mission-critical information service businesses.
“We share management’s goal to create the pre-eminent global research and consulting firm to the energy and metals industries.”
Charterhouse will keep a 13 per cent stake and senior partner Malcolm Offord said: “We have enjoyed a highly successful partnership with Wood Mackenzie for three years and are delighted to retain a significant shareholding.”