TA Associates buys Unit4 for $2bn

Unit4 has been acquired by TA associates, a global growth private equity firm with significant other interests in the enterprise software space. Partners Group will invest alongside TA and Mike Ettling, CEO of Unit4, will continue to lead the company with the support of the existing management team.

When ERP Today first interviewed Ettling in April 2019, he was clear on his intentions for the business and this recapitalisation should come as no surprise for customers, analysts and commentators. Ettling is an entrepreneur at heart and when we spoke with him almost two years ago, he stated that he didn’t sign on to Unit4 to repackage it and sell it. He signed on to lead Unit4 because he truly believed that there was a unique product with an opportunity to create a global market leader for people-centric ERP solutions in the midmarket. Ettling’s big goal is to follow in the footsteps of other on-premise to cloud transformations and get Unit4 fully rated as a cloud business.

Asked why now was the right time for the acquisition, Ettling said: “Our partnership with TA and Partners Group couldn’t come at a better time especially with the launch of ERPx, our next generation cloud-native ERP platform. TA has a huge amount of pattern recognition in this space and they bring a lot of value to our business. TA buys into a company with a vision and a team with plan; and this partnership will be even more beneficial to our existing customer base because it will enable us to accelerate roadmaps as well as make acquisitions that will enhance our service offerings. Our long terms plans for the business aren’t changing, we’re just going to expedite them now.”

TA’s acquisition of Unit4 brings with it the financial muscle for Ettling to make the acquisitions needed to round-off the Unit4 proposition. We asked Ettling how much new cash would be available and how he intended to make use of the additional capital – although he wouldn’t be drawn on the size of the war chest, Ettling confirmed that further acquisitions were in the pipeline and they would most likely be focused on strengthening their service operations in the US. “I said from the start when I joined the business this could be a billion-dollar cloud business and that it can be seriously rated as a cloud company, so we’re planning to make very targeted acquisitions to accelerate that journey.”

Unit4 is known for its vertical strengths and Ettling believes that every acquisition they make will enhance those core capabilities. According to Ettling, that could mean buying a particular product that will enhance an existing vertical, for example, but that they won’t diversify the channels they already operate in. “Everything we do will stick to our existing vertical themes in order to enhance our focus,” he said. “In January, when I took my team through the changes that were coming, I told them that this was just a pit stop in the Le Mans race… we just needed to get refueled to start the next leg of the journey and this is exactly what this partnership with TA will enable us to do.”

The transaction is expected to close in early summer of 2021 pending regulatory approvals and closing conditions.