I was so very well behaved at lunch today I should be given a gold star, only one small glass of white wine to wash down oysters and sole. I was treated to this lovely meal by Henry Jackson, the brains behind the one and a half year old, mid-market buyout house Merchant Equity Partners.
Some peHub readers may remember Jackson from his days as managing director of Deutsche Bank and the head of its European consumer retail group where he advised Tom Singh, Apax and Permira in the £700m acquisition of fashion retailer New Look.
When asked about walking the well trodden path of banker to buyout manager he offered the analogy: “Sometimes in your career you have to re-pot yourself like a plant in order to grow.” This one moment of Zen was all I was afforded with the highly enthusiastic and entrepreneurial Jackson, who has looked (some just a peek and others a hard stare) at over 125 deals in the last 18 months but has only completed one. He said he isn’t under pressure from his investors to get deals done and he doesn’t collect a management fee but rather the investors pay Merchant’s operating costs and the private equity firm takes a percentage of the profits.
The investors are rumoured to be hedge fund powerhouse Cerberus but when quizzed on this point, Jackson pleaded “confidentiality agreement”. And I chose not to push it, though he did say that his investors are sophisticated and meet with him weekly as part of Merchant’s investment board – so draw your own conclusions.
In October 2006, MEP completed the purchase of MFI, a UK-based kitchens and bathrooms retailer for the princely sum of one pound sterling. Since then, the group has ploughed over £100m back into the business £62m in equity from MEP.