Business Irish

Friday 20 April 2018

Rosaleen Blair sells her €315m headhunter to Alexander Mann

Former business woman of the year has €50m stake as recruiter sold to private equity giant

Up for a lark: Rosaleen Blair stumbled on gap in market
Up for a lark: Rosaleen Blair stumbled on gap in market
Nick Webb

Nick Webb

Dubliner and former Veuve Clicquot Businesswoman of the Year Rosaleen Blair has sold her high-end recruitment firm Alexander Mann Solutions to €10bn private equity firm New Mountain Capital for almost €315m.

Investment bank RW Baird advised on the sale. Last June, the Sunday Independent revealed that the company had been put up for sale by its majority shareholders Graphite Capital.

The Dubliner is to remain as chief executive of the firm.

Management have retained "a significant ownership stake" in Alexander Mann.

Latest company documents indicate that Blair owned around 15 per cent of the firm, with Graphite Capital and management owning the other shares prior to the buyout. Her stake is now worth close to €50m.

"We have developed this business over the last 17 years and have become the number one provider of talent acquisition and management services globally," Blair said.

"With New Mountain beside us, we look forward to extending our global footprint, particularly in North America, deepening our sector expertise and expanding our service offering," she added.

"We believe in the strategy Alexander Mann Solutions has developed and are pleased to be investing alongside management to pursue a focused growth path.

"We look forward to working closely with Rosaleen and her international team over the coming years and believe that through our partnership, Alexander Mann Solutions will not only continue to expand its services to clients, but will also create even more exciting career opportunities for many of their own team of professionals," according to Matthew Lori of New Mountain.

Blair, who was once turned down for a job in a recruitment firm, is one of the top head-hunters and executive search heavyweights in Britain. She has traditionally been one of the highest paid female bosses in Britain.

The Irish entrepreneur has utterly transformed the fortunes of the recruitment firm following a 2007 management buyout backed by €1.5bn private equity player Graphite Capital. It is believed that the deal was for around €120m.

The London-headquartered company has almost doubled in size since 2007 and now employs 2,000 staff in 75 different countries, having expanded operations in Asia, Europe and North America.

Blair helped change the entire business model of the firm, leading it from a mere transaction-based affair to a more comprehensive and lucrative management consultancy operation.

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."

The Irish market was too sleepy for the fast-moving entrepreneur and she moved to London in the mid-Nineties. British Dragons' Den star James Caan hired her to work in his own recruitment group. She later persuaded him to let her start up a new division, Alexander Mann Solutions in 1997, which she later took over in the management buyout. She won the Veuve Clicquot Irish Businesswoman of the Year award in 2007.

Sunday Independent

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