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A sale to management may be preferred to a trade sale for a variety of reasons, for example, the number of potential trade buyers may be limited, the vendors may be nervous about approaching competitors and disclosing sensitive information or they may feel strongly that the company and its staff carry on independently in what they believe to be “safe hands”.
In its simplest form, a management buyout (MBO) involves the management team of a company combining resources to acquire all or part of the company they manage. Most of the time, the management team takes full control and ownership, using their expertise to grow the company and drive it forward.
For a company undergoing a change in ownership, the management buyout route offers advantages to all concerned. Most obviously, it allows for a smooth transition of ownership. Since the new owners know the company, there is reduced risk of failure going forward, other employees are less likely to be concerned and existing clients and trading partners are reassured it will be “business as usual”. Furthermore, the internal changes and transfer of responsibilities between the vendors and management remain confidential, while any due diligence required by funders is often handled quickly.
The strength of the management is a critical factor in contemplating the potential future success of the company. Therefore, any funders pay close attention to the skills, experience, knowledge and credibility of the management team as well as their vision for taking the company forward. And while the management team can reap the rewards of ownership, they have to make the transition from being employees to owners, which requires a change in mindset from managerial to entrepreneurial, and all parties need to ensure this is a transition that is achievable.
Of course, for an MBO to be successful, vendors must be willing to sell the company at a realistic price and with a fundable deal structure. It is rare that a management team will have sufficient funds on their own to buy the company and external finance will be needed, so MBOs are usually funded via a combination of sources:
There are a number of risk factors that can make an MBO more difficult.
Such risk factors do not necessarily mean that an MBO is not possible, but they need to be considered from the outset as funders will only provide support if they are satisfied that the company will be viable for the foreseeable future.
The key steps of an MBO process include:
The MBO process can take around 6 months, about the same as for a trade sale, so the vendors and management team must be prepared to fully commit to the transaction for that time frame. This can be challenging since the company must be run as normal and kept on track while the transaction is on-going.
On balance, an MBO may offer a vendor an attractive alternative to sale to trade. In considering an MBO a number of considerations need to be made such as the desire and credibility of the management team buying the company, the availability of funding and whether all parties involved can agree upon the funding mix. If all the boxes can be ticked the MBO route can provide a vendor with assurance of the future success of their company and the management team with significant opportunity to benefit from future successes.
If you would like further information and to see how we could help, see our management buyout and buy-in services.
Managing Director, Quatro Tech
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