Business Irish

Friday 20 September 2019

Merc received Korn approach as headhunters battle for business

Merc's Ruth Curran
Merc's Ruth Curran

Gretchen Friemann

Ireland's Merc Partners, a leading recruitment company, is understood to have been the subject of takeover interest from Korn Ferry, a global headhunter and human resources giant, as international executive-search firms increasingly jostle for a foothold in Ireland's booming economy.

It is understood Korn Ferry made its overture to Merc early last year but the talks failed to progress.

But the move highlights a mounting appetite among global headhunters to crack the Irish market as the domestic sector has recovered and senior executive jobs flood into the State on the back of Brexit.

Merc, a long-established player in the executive recruitment sector, is led by managing partner Ruth Curran.

Neither Merc nor Korn Ferry commented when asked about the approach.

The aborted talks resulted in Korn Ferry, which owns the human resources consultancy outfit Hays Group, assembling a local executive search division from scratch.

Its foray into the Irish market was swiftly followed by the entry of another high-end financial recruitment firm, Odgers Berndtson, via a tie-up with executives from Amrop's Irish arm.

As first reported by this newspaper, five executives defected from Amrop last year, opting instead to join the platform of one of London's most influential headhunting firms.

Use of the English language and high levels of education were among the attractions of Ireland and the Irish workforce, Charlie Thompson, a partner in the financial services practice at Odgers Berndtson, said later at an official launch of the Irish business.

Earlier this month, Sigmar Recruitment became the latest firm to attract an international player after it agreed to a strategic partnership with the France-based Groupe Adéquat. The deal is expected to create a €1bn global group and will be structured through a staged equity investment over a five-year period, eventually delivering the French giant a majority interest in Sigmar.

Ireland's expanding economy and its status as a key destination for post-Brexit relocation, is likely to draw more international players into the market. Executive search firm Spencer Stuart has its global technology and knowledge centre in Dublin but is thought unlikely to open a headhunting arm here, however speculation is rife that Heidrick & Struggles is next in line to expand into Ireland.

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