Palatine invests in leading Call North West member FourNet

LEADING mid-market investor Palatine Private Equity has acquired a majority stake in Call North West member, FourNet, the award-winning digital transformation and customer experience specialists with clients including 10 Downing Street, the Cabinet Office, HM Treasury and the Bank of England.

Headquartered in Manchester, and with offices in London and Burton-on-Trent, FourNet has annual revenues of £38m and employs more than 100 people. The company has around 200 customers, with a significant number in the public sector. 

Reflecting its strong three-year growth rate of nearly 55%, FourNet featured in the Sunday Times Tech Track 100 for 2020, the index of the 100 privately-owned technology companies with the fastest-growing sales. The company has won a string of awards in recent years and has also been acknowledged as one of the Best Tech Companies to work for in Britain. 

The firm was founded in 2005 by CEO Richard Pennington, Operations Director Frank Jennings, Chief Technology Officer Mike Jervis and Sales Director Steve Tyrrell. Since 2017 it has been backed by YFM Equity Partners, which took a minority shareholding. 

The investment from Palatine will see YFM exit the business. 

Tech sector veteran Iain McKenzie, who has been Chairman of FourNet since the YFM investment, is remaining in position while Tony Dickin, Andy Strickland and James Painter from Palatine will work with the company going forwards. Tom Hustler was also a key part of the deal team. 

FourNet CEO Richard Pennington said: “Our new partnership with Palatine further positions us as a prime player in the technology sector and we are delighted to be working with their team. 

“The pandemic has been a catalyst for significant change in working practices and our industry over the past 12 months and fresh investment will enable FourNet to rapidly meet the changing needs of our customers, many of whom are critical to the UK’s success following the pandemic, and to build and acquire the additional capabilities that our customers require. 

“Palatine’s investment will keep FourNet at the forefront of the industry and will also provide the fuel for us to lead further change across the sector, while allowing us to capitalise on the rapid growth in demand for cloud, collaboration and managed service solutions.  

Andy Strickland, Senior Investment Director at Palatine, said: “FourNet is a highly respected, well-managed business with a loyal customer base and we look forward to working with Richard and the leadership team to add further value and power its continued growth at a time of significant public sector investment in Cloud and IT infrastructure. 

“We see significant opportunity for FourNet to strengthen its position in the market place as the go-to cloud services supplier to the public sector. Given our strong track record in the TMT sector and in IT, cloud and managed services in particular we believe we will be able to assist management in capitalising on the market opportunity. 

“As part of the strategy we will look at selected buy and build opportunities, but we also see great potential for organic growth. We also see a major opportunity to work with management to further develop the company’s already strong ESG credentials, an area where there is ever-increasing awareness and significance during the public sector procurement process. ESG is an integral part of the value-add proposition Palatine brings to the businesses it invests in.” 

Palatine has embedded an award-wining and pioneering ESG framework into its value-creation model over the last decade which enables it to work with management teams to measure, monitor and improve ESG outcomes across its portfolio businesses.