David recalls how well-prepared Steve was when they met in early 2015, and the clarity with which he was able to outline how Equistone and WAW could potentially work together.
“I ran through the slides with Steve and I was struck by how well he understood our business and the insight he had into the opportunity the pension reforms,” says David. “You have to remember that the reforms hadn’t come into force yet, so many were still trying to get their heads around the ramifications. I was impressed with the level of understanding Equistone brought to the table.”
At the end of the meeting Steve asked David for permission to approach Palatine Private Equity, the owners of the business at the time.
“We were very happy with Palatine and had grown the business. Steve was sensitive to that. He wanted to do things respectfully and in the right way,” David adds.
In the meantime, Dominic travelled up to Liverpool to meet David and his team, and afterwards shared ‘a scouse meat stew’ together. “Steve had nurtured a good relationship with the management team and with Palatine, says Dominic. “The combination of those personal connections and our technical understanding of the asset enabled us to take deal negotiations off-market.
Equistone played straight with Palatine and management, structuring the deal thoughtfully, to allow Palatine to retain a minority stake, as well as ensuring a sizeable rollover by management.
“I have known Gary Tipper [of Palatine] for a long time,” says Steve. “Gary trusted that we were serious and that we would deliver. That trust is built up over a long period of time.”
Dominic also emphasises the importance of such investment. “All of the partners at Equistone work incredibly hard to build our reputation in the market as a house that behaves with integrity and can be trusted to do what it says it will do.”