May 31, 2023

A Swiss-based private equity investor is one of the suitors of a fast-growing accounting firm founded by the former boss of Deloitte’s UK operations.

Sky News understands Partners Group is in talks to buy a majority stake in Azets, one of the UK’s top 10 accountants by revenue.

Partners is believed to be one of several bidders that made it to the second round of an auction held by bankers at JP Morgan.

However, John Connolly, the founder of Azets, is said to have dropped out of the process after a bid he worked on with the acquisition firm Towerbrook Capital Partners fell through.

Mr. Connolly, the former CEO of Deloitte UK, founded Cogital Group in 2016, which later became Azets, but stepped down following an earlier sale process in 2019.

He is also chairman of TowerBrook-backed US accounting firm Eisner Advisory Group and previously served as chairman of FTSE-100 companies Amec Foster Wheeler and G4S.

The current auction of Azets, in which Hg has a majority stake, has also received interest from Apax Partners and PAI Partners, according to market sources.

Azets claims to be the largest provider of business-critical services such as accounting, payroll and taxation for small and medium-sized businesses in Northern Europe.

In total, it has more than 100,000 SME customers.

The company trades under a number of brands, including Blick Rothenberg, which was part of a 2016 merger that saw Hg become a shareholder in the company.

Since then, it has made a series of acquisitions to strengthen its presence in several countries.

On Thursday, it announced the acquisition of Naylor Wintersgill, a Yorkshire-based accounting and business consultancy firm.

The deal was Azets’ 11th in a year.

The rebranding of the group under the name Azets took place in 2020.

None of those involved in the process declined to comment.