ECI Partners Backs UK-based Fourth Hospitality

Middle market private equity firm ECI Partners has invested an undisclosed amount in Fourth Hospitality, a provider of back-office software systems for the hospitality sector. The money will help Fourth Hospitality expand geographically and finance new development and acquisitions. Terms of the deal were not released. ECI Partners is based in the UK.

Fourth Hospitality (“Fourth”), the UK market leading SaaS ( Software-as-a-service) provider of back-office systems to the hospitality sector, has signed an investment deal with ECI Partners (“ECI”), the UK mid-market private equity firm. The funding from ECI will be used to accelerate Fourth’s geographic growth, increase market penetration, finance new product development and fund new bolt-on acquisitions.

Fourth was founded in 1999 by serial restaurant entrepreneurs Derek and Edwina Lilley, who remain investors in the business. Since then, it has grown rapidly to become the UK market leader with a 12% share of the market, and last year appeared in the Sunday Times Tech Track of fastest-growing companies. Fourth operates across twenty countries, including the US, Russia, Germany, China and South Africa, managing over 150,000 employee records and processing more than 3 million invoices.

The company has a strong track record in providing the market-leading software for labour & payroll, purchasing, stock, recipe & nutrition management, generating material cost synergies (up to 7%) for its customers. Customers include Wagamma, Pizza Express, Café Rouge, Hilton, Gordon Ramsay and Jamie’s Italian. Revenues in the year to 31 August 2010 rose by 23%, with EBITDA up 29%. The company has 167 full time employees.

When Derek and Edwina Lilley appointed KPMG to explore options, ECI pre-empted the process, offered a highly deliverable deal that met the needs of all parties and delivered this in an accelerated timetable. The management team at Fourth, led by Ben Hood, are excited to have a new partner that will help the future growth of the company, building on the solid successes of the last 11 years.

David Ewing at ECI, commented:

“We are delighted to be backing Ben and his team at Fourth. ECI is a growth investor and we look forward to helping the company to continue to grow across the globe.”

Ben Hood, Managing Director, [Fourth], commented:

We are very excited to be taking Fourth to another level with the right partner. ECI are a perfect fit and the timing could not be better. We have a fantastic team, a unique opportunity and are thoroughly looking forward to the future.