Souter Investments has completed the acquisition of a majority stake in Stone Group, the leading ICT services provider, in an equity and debt refinancing of the business led by CEO Simon Harbridge and its management team.
Founded in 1991, Stone Group has assisted thousands of organisations in adapting and thriving in a continually changing technology landscape by deploying valuable technology, delivering personalised services and providing reliable IT support.
The deal sees private equity investor RJD Partners (“RJD”) realise its investment which was acquired via a management buy-out of Stone Group in 2008. Certain RJD investors will retain an interest in Stone Group having invested alongside Souter Investments in the new structure.
Simon Harbridge, CEO of Stone Group, said: “I am privileged to lead a fantastic team at Stone Group. We continue to grow strongly, adding net new customers in each of our vertical markets, while also developing our infrastructure and cloud solutions and services. Our own hardware offerings remain the technology of choice for customers in several sectors. In addition, our fast-developing secure IT asset recycling and disposal services, accredited by the Environment Agency, assist our customers in achieving GDPR compliance and reaching their environmental and sustainability goals, whilst also providing peace of mind that their data bearing equipment is being disposed of safely.”
Mr Harbridge added: “This transaction represents an important and significant milestone for Stone Group. RJD has been a highly supportive partner for over ten years, during which the business has grown and matured. I am delighted that David MacLellan, chairman and founder of RJD, is continuing his involvement with us, investing alongside Souter and becoming our Non-Executive Chairman. Souter share our vision for the Group and will be a strong and dynamic supporter for the next stage of our journey.”
John Berthinussen, Investment Director at Souter Investments, commented: “Stone Group presents an exciting opportunity for Souter Investments to back an experienced and successful management team, leading an established and significant technology business highly regarded in a fast-moving sector. We look forward to working with Simon and his team as they continue to drive organic growth and expand the mix of Stone Group’s technology, service and support offerings, with the opportunity for both to be accelerated by M&A and strategic partnerships.”
Shawbrook, the specialist UK lending and savings bank with a focus on SMEs, provided debt facilities for the transaction.
Dickson Minto acted as legal advisers for Souter Investments, Freeths for management, Osborne Clark for RJD and Squire Patton Boggs for Shawbrook. BDO, Customer Satisfaction UK, Neotas, FWB Park Brown and Marsh provided due diligence services. Cadence Advisory provided debt advisory services.
Following a series of company sales in 2019, Souter’s investment in Stone Group follows its support of Coretrax Technology’s acquisitions of Churchill Drilling Tools and Mohawk Energy as part of a syndicate led by Buckthorn Partners. During the year, Souter has also completed a new investment in Eaton Gate, a managing general agent in the insurance sector, and DivideBuy, another Souter portfolio company, has been ranked third in the 2019 Deloitte UK Technology Fast 50 – one of the UK’s most foremost technology awards, celebrating the fastest growing technology companies in the UK.
The Stone Group Team
Simon Harbridge, CEO; Tim Westbrook, Sales and Marketing Director; Adrian Frost, CFO; Peter Berks, Procurement Director; Chris Hykin, Technical Services Director; and, Lawrence Richards, Operations Director.
About Stone Group
Originally founded as an Original Equipment Manufacturer, Stone Group has matured into one of the UK’s leading Value Added IT Resellers, retaining its own Stone branded hardware products within a broader portfolio founded on strategic partnerships with HP, Lenovo, Dynabook and Acer.
The Group enjoys direct strategic relationships with Intel and Microsoft from its heritage as an OEM and a level of technical skills, logistics and support, through its own facilities, vehicles and Stone employed engineers, far beyond those of the average reseller. Its market leading deployment and support services can be applied effectively across its entire product portfolio regardless of brand. Alongside its traditional hardware offerings, Stone has developed a full range of modern IT infrastructure solutions and services from the edge through networking and hybrid infrastructure to the cloud.
Stone’s credentials are validated through an unparalleled range of vendor accreditations and the strength of its solutions is demonstrated by the leading positions on all the major UK public sector frameworks – Stone is homegrown and rigorously tested alongside a range of multi-national competitors.
In 2009 Stone invested in its own inhouse IT Asset Disposal facility and is ADISA accredited with distinction and Government accredited to the highest level, placing it clearly in the top echelons of UK IT Asset Disposal service providers. Stone is fully committed to the circular economy and to providing true 360 IT asset lifecycle management services, sustainable by design and beneficial to the environment. Stone provides fully audited traceability of assets and the highest possible levels of data security for total peace of mind.
Stone’s solid hardware heritage underpins its services and solutions for public and private sector, offering cost effective and sustainable strategic IT purchasing to customers. Encore-PC is a strong brand choice for the procurement of refurbished desktops, laptops and accessories, supplying big-brand hardware economically.
Stone Approved provides a dedicated purchasing portal for public and private sector businesses needing more capable reliable tech to procure refurbished devices with standard two-year warranties.
In 2019 Stone acquired specialist PC Gaming firm DinoPC to bolster its market offering of high-powered custom PC gaming hardware both direct to consumer and to answer the academic HE/FE gaming requirement of its customers. All DinoPC machines will now be created bespoke for customers at Stone’s Staffordshire manufacturing plant, and supported by its quality customer service provisioning.
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About Souter Investments
Souter Investments is one of the UK’s leading family investment offices specialising in private equity. Founded in 2006, Souter has invested in over 50 unquoted companies and currently has significant investments in approximately 25 businesses, acting either as the lead investor or as a co-investor with other financial sponsors.
Souter’s private equity portfolio includes Pet Network International, the leading pet supplies retailer in South East Europe; Global Risk Partners, the UK insurance intermediary group; Fullers Group, New Zealand’s largest maritime passenger operator providing commuter ferry services and leisure and tourism experiences on Auckland Harbour and the Hauraki Gulf; and Ashtead Technology, which offers fully integrated equipment solutions to the subsea and onshore environmental monitoring and inspection sectors.
During 2019 Souter Investments announced the sale of its interests in Alexander Dennis, Mobius Life, Howick and Eastern Buses and Mana Coach Services.
For more information please visit www.souterinvestments.com.
About RJD Partners
RJD Partners is a private equity investor specialising in buyouts, buy-ins and development capital deals worth up to £50 million. RJD invests in established and growing companies operating in specific services and consumer niches, headquartered in the UK, backing management teams who have a clear plan for organic and often acquisition led growth.
For more information please visit www.rjdpartners.com.
For Stone Group press enquiries please contact Eleanor Willock at Mantis PR on 07739 323 966.
For Souter Investments press enquiries please contact Gordon Beattie at Beattie Communications on 0800 612 9890.