Advent International will be guided by the voice of experience when it attempts to exit portfolio company Financial Dynamics (FD), the financial public relations consultancy it acquired for £25 million (€37 million; $44 million) in July 2003. Tony Knox, a co-founder of FD, recently announced he was stepping down as chairman of the firm in order to provide advice to private equity?backed companies before they float ? and he didn't have to look far for his first mandate.
60 year-old Knox said he would be retaining his own equity stake in FD and would assist Advent in the realization of its 55 percent interest (whether by IPO or not), which is expected to occur within the next two to three years.? We need quite a lot of time before we can demonstrate to the market that the acquisitions we have made since the MBO have worked,?he told industry publication PR Week.
If anyone can persuade the market, Knox can. Having joined the PR industry in 1967, he set up his first financial communications shop ? Financial Strategy ? in 1978, before going on to co-found FD with Justin Downes in 1986. Since then, the firm has gone through a staggering eight changes of ownership. Knox retired after the first MBO of the firm in 2000, but then returned as chairman when Advent backed current CEO Charles Watson three years later.
One attribute that will likely stand Knox in good stead as he embraces his new role is his reputation as a tough negotiator. Prior to Advent buying FD, a competing bid was being cooked up by arch rival Tulchan Communications. Tulchan founder Andrew Grant described his doomed approach to the Sunday Times as follows:?I went to see Tony [Knox] and Charles [Watson], but they didn't want to know. Itwas clear that it would have been over their dead bodies.?
FD has offices in the US, UK, Ireland, Germany, Greece, Sweden and Bahrain, and advises a number of private equity clients including Allied Capital, Cinven and Conning Capital Partners.
Oliver Pawle, vice chairman of UBS Investment Bank, succeeds Knox as chairman. Pawle, who has been chairman of FD's advisory board for over a year, will remain in his post at UBS while heading FD.