Irish IT group Ekco buys Unity from Datalex chairman David Hargaden – The Irish Times
Ekco, a fast-growing IT services group backed by prominent Irish investors such as former Superquinn owner Eamon Quinn, has acquired cloud services business Unity Technology Solutions from Datalex non-executive chairman David Hargaden and former head of corporate finance. at BDO.
The sale price has not been revealed but it adds Unity’s more than €13 million in annual revenue to the Ekco Group, bringing its total to around €105 million. Unity’s 80 employees will join Ekco, bringing the total to around 300 employees in Ireland and 500 across the group, which also operates in the UK and the Netherlands. Ulster Bank provided debt financing for the operation.
Ekco, which recently closed a €20 million fundraising round, plans to retain the Unity brand for the time being, while Mr. Hargaden will remain at the helm of the unit to ensure continuity for its business customers. He will also join Ekco’s management team.
It is the biggest acquisition to date by Ekco, which has completed between 15 and 20 deals since it was formed in 2017 by Dublin-based business partners Eoin Blacklock and Jonathan Crowe. Besides its founders, its shareholders include Nick Furlong’s Pageant Holdings investment group, venture capital group ACT and several private investment offices of wealthy Irish families.
Unity was originally spun off from IT group Calyx, which was taken over by UK private equity group Alchemy Partners from Jon Moulton, which bought its debt from Anglo Irish Bank just over a decade ago. Alchemy soon sold the Irish business to Mr. Hargaden, former chairman of Car Trawler.
The company originally had interests in selling computer hardware and voice services, but Mr Hargaden restructured it in 2016 to become a pure cloud operator, selling data storage and security services to other organizations such as Musgrave, Sherry FitzGerald and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.
Mr Blacklock said Unity had been a partner of Ekco for about four years and a year ago he began discussions about buying it. He said he integrates “seamlessly” with Ekco, which specializes in selling cloud and cybersecurity services to other companies.
Mr Blacklock said the days when the biggest IT groups, such as Hewlett Packard, dominated the cloud services space were “gone”, and there were now “thousands” of companies such as Unity across Europe who were active in space. “We will be making more cybersecurity and cloud services acquisitions over the next 12 months. There is massive demand,” he said.
He said the plan was to continue to build the Unity business here, while looking for additional growth in Ekco’s other main Dutch and UK markets. The group, which was previously called Internet Corp before changing its name in 2020, is run from Malahide in north Dublin. Mr. Blacklock and Mr. Crowe have a proven track record in the cloud space, having previously formed Irish technology group KeepItSafe for its Nasdaq-listed parent company J2 Global, which has since restructured.
Mr Hargaden said he had “lots of approaches” for Unity, but a deal with Ekco made more sense because of “continuity for our customers”.