My goal of proactively shaping the future of my lifework and finding the ideal partner was achieved through professional advice and support from the experienced team of Hitz & Partner. Thanks to their strong commitment and efficient cooperation, the exciting project resulted in a successful transaction.
When did you first deal with the succession planning and how did you handle it?
Interestingly, we have regularly discussed the issue on the Board of Directors for two or three years. We wanted to think about an exit in time in order to be able to tackle such succession planning at the right time. At some point, you get older and you may suddenly get into an emergency. We wanted to avoid such scenario and instead approach the planning without time pressure in a phase of strength. Last year the time was ripe: I turned sixty and the school was well set up.
When and why did you decide to hire an external Corporate Finance / M&A advisor?
It was clear from the beginning that Hitz & Partner comes into play as soon as we tackle the process. Chairman Hans Lerch has already worked with Hitz & Partner on various projects and they maintain a long-standing relationship. I already knew Hitz & Partner as well because they have advised me in an earlier project. For these reasons, we have never considered any other option.
How did the cooperation with Hitz & Partner look like?
As already known from the previous project, the collaboration was extremely efficient, professional, dynamic - simply perfect. In addition, the chemistry was right from the start, which I consider to be something very important.
What specific benefits brought you the consulting service from Hitz & Partner?
On the one hand, the whole presentation of the company, so that the interest of an investor is aroused and the investor becomes convinced to invest in this unique company. That was just perfect. On the other hand, all negotiations that are necessary to bring a transaction to a consensus. That was excellent. Because I just knew, that I can let Hitz & Partner do and all will end well. They represented and finally realized my interests as owner perfectly; the result is an excellent deal.
Which moments during the process did you find particularly difficult and which particularly pleasing?
From a technical point of view, the due diligence phase was very demanding, as one is constantly confronted with new questions. Moreover, the contracts were very complex. In this respect, I was fortunately very well supported by Hitz & Partner and by the lawyers.
In between, of course, emotions came up. It is ultimately a matter of giving away the one's lifework that has been built up over 25 years. Such phases have existed, but I could handle them well, because I knew that the envisaged solution was right.
Since the cooperation was very trustworthy and transparent, the process developed very well and I never had any doubts as to whether we are doing the right thing. Logically, the deal itself is very gratifying, also from a financial point of view, which of course is also a pleasure.
What was the motivation for the roll-over investment?
I wanted to ensure the future of my lifework in the long term and ensure that the school has a future, even if it will not be mine anymore and even if I will have to let it go completely. But I wanted to make it meaningful and in a phase of its own strength, what finally succeeded. Now, I have time to prepare an appropriate operational succession, which is already in full swing. However, as I did not want to leave now, it had to be a model in which I would certainly remain involved for a few years, both on an operational level as well as on a strategic level. We have found exactly such a model. I was immediately ready to make a commitment, although it is higher than originally thought. Any other option would not have come into question.
What are the advantages of the partnership with a financial investor like Invision?
One advantage is clearly the educational political orientation. I have deliberately opted for an education group, because the education policy in Switzerland is very difficult and an individual fighter loses more and more its influence. Being the largest education group in the field of colleges of higher education, we can better represent our shared concerns at cantonal and federal level. A further advantage is the use of synergies within the education group, whether in procurement, IT, or in the educational offering, where one can stimulate each other. These are the valuable aspects that have voted for the option of an educational group. It was always clear, that it should make sense from an entrepreneurial standpoint and that is what it is doing now: in an education group, we remain in our core business.
What opportunities do you see with the new partner in the future?
The main opportunity I see in the strengthening of our position as group in the education policy. On the other hand, the financial aspect has also convinced me, because the group itself is going to take another step in the foreseeable future and further acquisitions are possible. Furthermore, the partnership with Invision ensures that I will be able to withdraw completely in the mid-term, while possibly taking over another function in the educational landscape.
What would you recommend to someone who is facing a sales process?
I would recommend to everyone: "Choose a proficient M&A partner, who represents your interests and can lead the process professionally. To me it is quite clear that you cannot go through such a complex sales process without a competent partner."
Thanks to the professional support of Hitz & Partner, this first step of my personal succession was a great experience, which I would do exactly the same way again.