Caspar Hobbs is the co-founder and CEO of Mergermarket Group. He started the venture in December 1999, a little more than a year after leaving the Scots Guards, where he had become a major during his 10-year career. On quitting the army, he worked on the commercial side at Financial News, where he met Charlie Welsh, 40, a journalist. They came up with the concept for Mergermarket, which uses some of the strategy Mr Hobbs had employed in the Army.
Mergermarket was well ahead of its time in using the interactivity of the internet to build a community around dynamically updated information on forthcoming mergers and acquisitions to investment bankers and others in the M&A community.
SPARK was the first investor in mergermarket as a start-up in 1999. When the company was acquired by Pearson plc in August 2006 for £101m, SPARK made a return of 24 times its initial investment.
On the investment....
“SPARK saw exactly what we were trying to do when we simply had a business plan and lots of enthusiasm, they backed both. SPARK understands entrepreneurs because they are entrepreneurs.”
On the highlights....
There were many highlights in the growth of Mergermarket, including hitting and exceeding revenue targets every year in almost all the business lines.
Mergermarket grew to be a truly global enterprise with the largest dedicated M&A reporter team in the world, with 150 reporters, as well as diversifying from M&A to include products such as Debtwire for distressed debt worldwide and Wealth Monitor for highlighting creators of new wealth. The Mergermarket concept was also successfully launched in the USA and Far East.
On the exit....
Mergermarket was one of the first investments made by SPARK, so they grew together. It was with difficulty that the management team strategically decided to examine the options facing Mergermarket in 2006. The FT Group offered the best mix of value for shareholders and a good platform for the business for the management team. For the SPARK team the Mergermarket deal was a real success in terms of the quality of the business built and its financial results.
“SPARK have been great partners and shareholders, supportive and encouraging from the earliest stages of the company and in every phase of its growth. Their wisdom and perspective always added great value.”