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CEO (m/f/x) with shareholder opportunity

08 October 2018

Wanted: entrepreneurial personalities for managing director positions with shareholder opportunity

The challenges facing investors and the impact of headhunters

If Dr Ulf Cloppenburg asks for you, it’s best to not leave him waiting for too long. Once the successful SME entrepreneur finds an interesting corporate target, he generally doesn’t have much time – the facts have to be thoroughly reviewed, and the search for a future CEO has to begin. If the CEO’s leadership is successful, he or she will receive a minority stake. Cloppenburg pursues a clear target. He keeps an eye out for interesting companies that he can make a long-term investment in, based on the “buy and hold” principle, and whose profitability he can develop. A sustainable, long-term and value-oriented acquisition of a majority stake – ideally 100 % – is a basic requirement for Ulf Cloppenburg.

The criteria

Cloppenburg is looking for companies based in a German-speaking country that operates in a niche market and is searching for a successive manager to its current executive team. His investment strategy targets companies with sales of EUR 10 to 50 million and sustainably high revenues with an EBIT of at least EUR 1.5 million. Preferably, the company should be in the retail or consumer goods or the manufacturing sector. And, of course, it needs to be well positioned in its market.

The requirements

Cloppenburg has two fundamental requirements when it comes to takeovers. On the one hand, the seller has to be absolutely certain that his or her company will continue on its path of long-term success in the hands of an expert. On the other hand, the buyer – Cloppenburg himself – needs to be sure that he can rely on an experienced managing director from the start who will get to work right away. The acquisition process and the company’s further development should not be delayed simply because the right executive hasn’t been found yet. And “right” heremeans far more than just specialist expertise. Especially during the acquisition, the choice of executive, and hence the corporate culture, is a key success factor. It requires a real all-rounder with a proven track record who does not only meet investors’ expectations, but also the seller’s vision. This candidate will need to overcome major challenges, as he or she will constantly have to drive the changes that the company’s realignment requires and, at the same time, win acceptance among employees. Taking this into consideration, the term “entrepreneurial personality” is probably the most fitting description.

The process

In order to find this entrepreneurial personality, Claudia Jorde, advisor for mandates in the field of Investment Companies & Private Equity at Norecu, is involved right from the start of the M&A deal process. Ulf Cloppenburg and Claudia Jorde have had a successful professional partnership for almost ten years – a partnership based on mutual trust and a precise understanding of the relevant requirements and expectations. Bringing Jorde in, at an early stage helps to start the search for the CEO (with sole representation rights) off to an optimal start. She doesn’t need time-consuming briefings or long lists of questions to know who is needed to ensure that the future investment continues to be successful and profitable. In the process, Cloppenburg can be sure that no information that could influence the progress or the sale will be leaked during the M&A negotiations. During this stage, it is clear to everyone involved that a sensitive approach is the most important key to success. Neither exclusivity nor disquiet among employees should not be risked. Both would lead to negative headlines in the media.

The partnership

Norecu Executive Search GmbH has proven to be a reliable partner in these cases and Claudia Jorde has become more of a confidante than just a headhunter to Ulf Cloppenburg. She approaches the market confidentially, as it is her daily business to work in a sensitive surrounding. All of the parties involved – the seller, the buyer, the M&A advisors – can therefore rest assured that they have an experienced personnel advisor with a highly discreet approach at their side. She has in-depth expertise in these markets and in the SME sector. She can rely on a stable, great network by leveraging the combined expertise in the fields of Investment Companies & Private Equity, Technology & Production as well as IT and Digital Life at Norecu. This enables Norecu to act quick and penetrate the relevant markets.

Claudia Jorde is always delighted to receive a call from Ulf Cloppenburg. Aside from the prospect of a new assignment, a conversation with the entrepreneur always involves friendly and lively discussion on an equal footing. Cloppenburg shares many of her personal interests – such as skiing and playing the violin if there is some spare time. Perhaps these shared passions for a wide range of activities are the very secret to their shared long-term success.

“Reliability and discretion are of highest priority, as providing advisory services to entrepreneurs and owning families is a matter of trust. The main focus of my work is the filling successfully of mission-critical positions as well as the organisation of ownership changes already within the acquisition lifecycle.”

Claudia Jorde is partner of Norecu Executive Search GmbH and manages Norecu´s Düsseldorf office. Her expertise is based on more than ten years of experience in executive search, combined with the developement of new branches and company units in leading international companies. As advisor for mandates in the field of Investment Companies and Private Equity, her focus is on managing directors and their direct reports as well as planning for succession with shareholder opportunities.