Souter buys majority stake in IT firm Stone Group

Brian Souter

Souter Investments, the family investment office of Stagecoach Group founder Brian Souter, said on Tuesday it completed the acquisition of a majority stake in Staffordshire-based information and communications technology (ICT) firm Stone Group.

The deal involves an equity and debt refinancing of the business that is led by CEO Simon Harbridge and its management team.

The deal sees private equity investor RJD Partners realise its investment which was acquired via a management buy-out of Stone Group in 2008.

Certain RJD investors will retain an interest in Stone Group having invested alongside Souter Investments in the new structure.

Souter Investments investment director John Berthinussen said: “Stone Group presents an exciting opportunity for Souter Investments to back an experienced and successful management team, leading an established and significant technology business highly regarded in a fast-moving sector. 

“We look forward to working with Simon and his team as they continue to drive organic growth and expand the mix of Stone Group’s technology, service and support offerings, with the opportunity for both to be accelerated by M&A and strategic partnerships.”

Stone Group CEO Simon Harbridge said: “We continue to grow strongly, adding net new customers in each of our vertical markets, while also developing our infrastructure and cloud solutions and services. 

“Our own hardware offerings remain the technology of choice for customers in several sectors.

“In addition, our fast-developing secure IT asset recycling and disposal services, accredited by the Environment Agency, assist our customers in achieving GDPR compliance and reaching their environmental and sustainability goals, whilst also providing peace of mind that their data bearing equipment is being disposed of safely.”

Harbridge added: “This transaction represents an important and significant milestone for Stone Group.

“RJD has been a highly supportive partner for over ten years, during which the business has grown and matured.

“I am delighted that David MacLellan, chairman and founder of RJD, is continuing his involvement with us, investing alongside Souter and becoming our non-executive chairman. 

“Souter share our vision for the group and will be a strong and dynamic supporter for the next stage of our journey.”

Originally founded as an original equipment manufacturer, Stone Group has grown into a “Value Added IT Reseller” retaining its own Stone branded hardware products within a broader portfolio founded on strategic partnerships with HP, Lenovo, Dynabook and Acer. 

The group also has strategic relationships with Intel and Microsoft.

Shawbrook, the specialist UK lending and savings bank with a focus on SMEs, provided debt facilities for the transaction.

Dickson Minto acted as legal advisers for Souter Investments, Freeths for management, Osborne Clark for RJD and Squire Patton Boggs for Shawbrook.

BDO, Customer Satisfaction UK, Neotas, FWB Park Brown and Marsh provided due diligence services. Cadence Advisory provided debt advisory services.