Whenever there is a deal around you can be sure to find Apax Partners, the private equity investment group somewhere in the mix.
This week there is speculation that it is about to bid £300 million plus for the House of Fraser department store group which for Apax, with investments in more than 300 companies across its chosen sectors of information technology; telecommunications; media; healthcare; financial services and retail and consumer products, it is simply business as usual.
Other than size and numbers of deals, nothing has really changed since 1972 when Egyptian-born Ronald Cohen, then age 26 and three Harvard Business School classes founded a consulting firm to advise entrepreneurs. Without knowing it they had sown the seeds of the venture capital business in Europe.
England at the time was known as the “sick man” of Europe and in an ominous sign of the times the day after Cohen launched what was to become known as Apax Partners, a bitter coal miners’ strike forced the British government to declare a state of emergency and place businesses on a three day work week to conserve energy.
Later Cohen joined forces with Alan Patriof, a New York financier, the firm flourished in the go-go 90s and the rest of the Apax success story is now part of history… it has been associated with such companies as Computacenter, Dr Solomon’s, Virgin Radio, Waterstone’s, Autonomy, Demon Internet, Dialog Semiconductor, Esprit Telecom and Arc International in the UK; Kamps, Nordsee and Tank und Rast in Germany; Nicox, Sephora and Aigle in France; Compugen and Fundtech in Israel and Apple Computers, America Online and Cellular Communications Inc. in the USA.
The Apax group advises funds totaling $12 billion around the world and has offices in London, New York, Menlo Park, Madrid, Milan, Munich, Stockholm, Tel Aviv, Zurich, Hong Kong and Paris.
In 2001 he was knighted for services to venture capitalism and last July Sir Ronald stepped down from executive chairman to concentrate his time on what he calls ‘social investing’ but as the headlines will show this week Apax has lost none of its zest for business.
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