Ellis Goodfellow, Paul Jackson, Matthew Mellon, Ruth Percival, Mike Perry, Liam May, Oliver Dennis, Contollo, p Inform Communications

The acquisition team: Abacus's Ellis Goodfellow and Paul Jackson, NorthEdge's Matthew Mellon, Contollo's Ruth Percival, Abacus's Mike Perry, NorthEdge's Liam May, and Contollo's Oliver Dennis. Credit: via Inform Communications

Abacus acquired by Contollo

Entering the built environment market with a bang, Contollo has taken on the Manchester-based cost management consultancy with an aim to acquire another seven businesses within five years.

Building from Abacus’s expertise, the Knutsford-based Contollo will specialise in providing mechanical, electrical, and plumbing consultancy and cost management services – with an eye for working on smart buildings.

“What we want to do is create a business that is helping its clients to deliver their ESG ambitions,” Contollo chief executive Ruth Percival told Place North West. “We think that by focusing on those two disciplines (MEP and cost management) we can really do that.”

She pointed out that this was less a purchase of Abacus and more of a partnership. As part of the deal, Abacus will retain its Manchester office and its 30-strong staff.

Abacus, she explained, provides the technical expertise, while she and Contollo executive chair Oliver Dennis, will supply knowledge on mergers and acquisitions – helping to scale up the current Abacus operations.

It’s a model she plans on using with the other companies Contollo is in talks with.

“We’re buying businesses from great people who are successful and know how to run their own businesses,” Percival told Place North West. “So we focus on bringing them together, on M&A, and, over time, integration.

“It’s not a cost reduction plan,” she continued. “These are small consultancy businesses that are quite lean, they don’t have loads of overhead… This is all about investment, putting money into [these businesses] to help them grow.”

With the acquisition, Abacus co-founder Ellis Goodfellow has become chief commercial officer of Contollo. Goodfellow’s fellow co-founder, Mike Perry, is now also a director at Contollo.

Goodfellow spoke about why joining Contollo was the right step for Abacus.

“We have been planning the next stage of growth for Abacus over many months and have built a close working relationship with Ruth and the Contollo team,” he said.

“We have an ambitious growth plan and through this partnership we will be working collaboratively with other sector-leading consultancies. Mike Perry, [Abacus director] Paul Jackson and I, together with the Abacus team, are excited to be part of the Contollo journey and look forward to achieving new milestones together.”

Private equity firm NorthEdge supported the purchase of Abacus and the debut of Contollo. NorthEdge director Liam May said: “This investment brings together a number of NorthEdge’s focus areas: Contollo is another example of a regionally-based company with national reach; the investment strategy is highly aligned with our ESG and sustainability commitments; and Contollo represents another buy and build investment in our portfolio. We are delighted to be partnering with Ruth and Oliver to support them to deliver their ambitious growth plan over the coming years.”

At the moment, Contollo is looking at acquiring businesses in the North West, Midlands, and South East. There is a vision for a national footprint down the line, according to Percival.

“We have a really ambitious plan and we’re dead excited,” she said.

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