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Data services company set for further growth after MBO advised by Garbutt + Elliott

A leading North West data service company, Qbase, is under new ownership following a management buy out (MBO) advised by Yorkshire accountants and business advisers, Garbutt + Elliott.


Garbutt+ Elliott corporate finance partner, Tariq Javaid and his team advised Qbase founders, Ian and Anita Jonhstone, on the sale of a 77.8 per cent majority ownership of the company to a four-strong management team comprising chief executive officer, Rob Jones; operations director, Tracey Barker; technical solutions director, Nick Kelly, and consulting director, Paresh Patel.


Ian and Anita Johnstone, who keep a minority share holding, will retain seats on the board and advise the new owners, led by Rob Jones, who aims to grow the business by 20 per cent annually with a £10m target turnover by 2025, partly by broadening its product and sector reach.


The deal includes acquisition of clients, staff, and assets at Qbase, which will retain its Warrington head office. Anita and Ian Johnstone were given legal advice by the Leeds office of Mills and Reeve; the MBO team by Freeman Fisher, Manchester, and HSBC, which financed the deal, was advised by Hill Dickinson, Liverpool.


Rob Jones says: “The data services market is growing rapidly as companies realise its potential and value as a business asset and Qbase is in a strong position to take advantage of the opportunities the market currently provides.

“The aim of the management team, and all of Qbase’s staff, is to continue to grow on our current trajectory by building stronger and broader partnerships with data technology providers to deliver services across broad markets including manufacturing and retail.”


Qbase founder, Anita Johnstone, adds, “The management team at Qbase has helped to develop the company into the high-growth business it is today. Collectively, all four have worked for the business for nearly 60 years and we’re confident that we leave Qbase in strong hands, poised for future growth. We’re retaining a minority stake as testament to the trust we have in the team to continue to develop the company.”

Tariq Javaid says: “Qbase is another example of a deal advised by Garbutt + Elliott outside our Yorkshire heartland and we are delighted to have played a role in helping Ian and Anita Johnstone sell their majority ownership to a dynamic young management team which will continue Qbase’s growth in an expanding UK market.

“The outlook for the 2020 deals market looks positive  as we now have political stability, which takes some of the nervousness out of the financial markets. We are discussing exit strategies with several vendors who,  rather than following the traditional route of selling to trade, are taking a bigger interest in vendor-initiated MBOs  which allow them to retire, bring through the next generation of management, while retaining some interest in the business they have built.“


Qbase provides customers, which include HSBC, Arriva, Trust Ford (Retail), Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity, WWF and Everton Football Club, with data services that include data management and migration, data quality and governance, business analysis and insights, and marketing automation.


Garbutt + Elliott’s 11-strong corporate finance team, which operates from its Leeds and York offices, has managed more than 200 deals throughout the UK across a wide range of commercial sectors.