ECI joins forces with Brown for Aerial Facilities deal

Private equity firm ECI Partners has bought a wireless network company and installed telecoms veteran Ian Brown as chief executive.

ECI Partners, a UK mid-market buyout firm, has bought Aerial Facilities, a wireless network products supplier, for £56 million (€85 million; $110 million).

The company specialises in wireless networks and has built security communications networks for Heathrow airport’s Terminal Five in London, The Reichstag and the Hong Kong and Singapore Metros.

The family of Aerial’s co-founder Gerald David, who died last year, sold his 65 percent stake.  Abbay Baghai, co-founder and managing director, has also sold his stake and plans to retire, but will reinvest an undisclosed amount in the business, a spokesman said.

As part of the buyout, ECI has installed serial telecoms entrepreneur Ian Brown as chief executive, two years after he last worked in the sector. 

Brown told PrivateEquityOnline: “I was attracted to Aerial Facilities because of the company’s focus on the wireless space and its impressive product offering.” He said ECI has taken a stake of “more than 70 percent” in the business, with management and about 15 to 20 employees holding the remaining shares. 
Brown is no stranger to private equity. In 1995 he led the 3i-backed management buy-in of Fastnet, an internet services provider, which yielded a 10 times return for 3i when it was sold to Redstone, another internet business, in 2000. Brown became chief executive of Redstone as part of the deal.

He left Redstone in 2005 to travel the world “until I got bored”.

Royal Bank of Scotland supplied £23.25 million of debt to ECI, while Grant Thornton provided financial advice. The vendor was advised by BDO Stoy Hayward.

Earlier this month ECI Partners sold LateRooms, an online hotels specialist, to First Choice Holidays, a travel company, for £108 million.  ECI generated an internal rate of return of more than 500 percent and a multiple of more than nine times its original investment.