CEO of comms tech biz Daisy splits as sale and IPO talks off the table

Neil Muller leaves corner office, chairman takes controls again

Hot on the heels of the latest acquisitions, Daisy Group CEO Neil Muller has told employees he is exiting as the business, which had been in the frame to IPO or sell up, initiates a refinancing deal.

Muller broke the news of his departure from Daisy, which sells tech-cum-comms kit and services to small and medium-sized orgs in the UK, in a memo to staffers that was seen by The Register:

"Our founder and chairman, Matthew Riley, and I have been discussing the next phase of the Group's evolution and, following much deliberation and conversations together, I have decided to take this opportunity to pursue a new direction."

The memo gave no indication of where Muller intends to go next or what brought about the decision. We called him for comment but he did not answer his mobile phone.

Riley told us he will become executive chairman and the divisional managing directors that reported to Muller will report to him.

"We came to the natural end of the relationship," he said of Muller. "We've been running a refinancing process that we are still going ahead with and it was time for him to go somewhere else."

Muller landed at Daisy in 2015 to help founder and then-CEO Riley chart a course to double the size of the business within three to five years. It is on track to do so.

Muller joined just after Daisy pulled itself off the London Stock Exchange and went private again in a deal that valued the company at £494m. Prior to Daisy he spent 20 years at Computacenter.

Numerous sources told us Daisy had been locked in talks with Bain Capital about selling the business. El Reg understands Bain dangled £1.6bn, but shareholders, including Riley, were holding out for more. Muller, it was claimed, was set for a nice payout if the sale had concluded.

Riley said he expected to agree a refinancing deal later this year.

This rather limits the possibility of Daisy floating anytime soon – 2018 seems like a tough year for any business to float on LSE amid continued political negotiations over Brexit. Note, O2 has not quite hit the IPO button yet.

Daisy has continued to buy up businesses, and only last week took over EE comms reseller Voice Mobile, and then added voice, video, mobile and data comms reseller DV02 to its list of conquests. The buy prices were not disclosed.

This takes the number of buys Riley has overseen since he founded Daisy in 2001 to more than 50.

In its Profit and Loss accounts for fiscal '17 ended 31 March, Daisy Group Holdings Ltd turned over £601m in sales, up from £511m in the prior year. This included results from Phoenix IT Group and a contribution from Alternative Networks, which Daisy bought in late 2016.

Daisy reported a net loss of £101.2m after paying back £102.1m in finance costs.

Riley told us he was "comfortable" with where the business is financially, and "so are our banks". ®

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