Clearwater advises ECI on Fourth Hospitality investment


Clearwater Corporate Finance has advised ECI Partners, the UK mid-market private equity firm, on its investment in Fourth Hospitality, the UK market leading SaaS (software as a service) provider of back-office systems to the hospitality sector. The funding from ECI will be used to accelerate geographic growth, increase market penetration; finance new product development and fund new bolt-on acquisitions.

Fourth was founded in 1999 by serial restaurant entrepreneurs Derek and Edwina Lilley, who remain investors in the business. Since then, it has grown rapidly to become the UK market leader with a 12% share of the market, and last year appeared in the Sunday Times Tech Track of fastest-growing companies. Fourth operates across twenty countries, including the US, Russia, Germany and South Africa, managing over 150,000 employee records and processing more than 3 million invoices.

The company has a strong track record in providing the market-leading software for labour, stock and purchasing functions, generating material cost synergies (up to 7%) for its customers. During its 12-year history, the company has never lost a customer to a competitor. Customers include Pizza Express, Fuller’s, Marston’s, Wagamama, Café Rouge, Hilton, Jamie’s Italian, Carluccios, the Gordon Ramsay Group and ASK. Revenues in the year to 31 August 2010 rose by 17%, with EBITDA up 29%. The company has 167 full time employees.

The team from Clearwater Corporate Finance that advised ECI on its acquisition comprised partner Carl Houghton, director Nick Holder, manager Andy Strickland, and was supported by technology analyst, Emma Rodgers.

Carl Houghton, partner and head of the technology team at Clearwater Corporate Finance, said: “It is easy to think that the potential of cloud computing and software as a service, in particular, has been exaggerated, but when you see the true scalability and remarkable growth of a business like Fourth you can understand why that excitement is there. We have been tracking the business for a long time now and are delighted to have advised ECI on its acquisition.”

David Ewing of ECI Partners, commented: “We are delighted to be backing Ben and his team at Fourth. ECI is a growth investor and we look forward to helping the company to continue to grow across the globe.”

Ben Hood, managing director of Fourth, commented: “We are very excited to be taking Fourth to another level with the right partner – ECI – who are a perfect fit and the timing could not be better. We have a fantastic team, a unique opportunity and are thoroughly looking forward to the future.”