Tuesday 22 May 2018

Firm set up by Dublin woman who 'stumbled onto a gap in the market' sold for €930m

Rosealeen Blair
Rosealeen Blair
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Dubliner Rosaleen Blair's high-end recruitment and outsourcing firm Alexander Mann Solutions has been sold for £820m (€929m) to Canada's Omers Private Equity.

New Mountain Capital invested in the UK-based business in 2013 in a deal that valued it at €315m. It's now selling to the investment arm of Omers' defined benefit pension plan for municipal employees in the Province of Ontario, Canada.

The Ontario fund will be the third major backer of the business, led by the Irish businesswoman.

New Mountain had bought its stake from previous investor Graphite Capital. Management, led by Ms Blair, are understood to have retained a significant ownership stake.

Ms Blair originally founded Alexander Mann within Dragons' Den star James Caan's recruitment group, before leading a management buyout supported by Graphite.

She has remained at the helm through its changes of investor.

Ms Blair, who was once turned down for a job in a recruitment firm, is one of the top headhunters and executive search heavyweights in Britain.

Educated at Loreto, in Dublin's North Great George's Street, Blair worked as a Montessori teacher before running a fashion shop on Grafton Street. Her first foray into the recruitment sector saw her set up a nanny business.

In 2011, she told an interviewer that, for a lark, she put an ad in a newspaper on the north side of Dublin, with the words, "child minders wanted" – and another ad on the south side of Dublin, "child minders available" – just to see what would happen.

"Overnight I had a nanny business," she says.

"I couldn't believe the amount of families wanting nannies and the amount of professional nannies seeking work, so I just stumbled onto a gap in the market."

London-headquartered Alexander Mann Solutions employs 4,000 staff and operates in 85 different countries and has almost doubled in size since 2013.

Alexander Mann describes its business as providing "talent acquisition and management solutions" to businesses, a model that goes beyond recruiting and placing staff to a broader management consultancy and advisory role.

The proposed sale is subject to competition approval and is expected to close in the second quarter of 2018.

Omers said it will back the existing Alexander Mann management, and is in a position to finance acquisitions.

"Omers will support the Alexander Mann Solutions management team and employees in deepening and expanding its sectorial and geographic focus, and invest in technology to further develop its value proposition for both new and prospective clients," it said.

"Omers will also support Alexander Mann Solutions in driving consolidation in what remains a large but still fragmented market."

Ms Blair welcomed the sale.

"Omers partnership approach, its substantial and unconstrained capital base and its experience of supporting businesses organically and through acquisition make it an ideal partner for Alexander Mann Solutions in this next stage of our journey," she said.

NM Rothschild & Sons acted as financial advisers to Omers Private Equity. Weil, Gotshal & Manges provided legal counsel.

Irish Independent

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