PhillyDeals: Wilmington software firm riding high on new Bain funds

CEO Michael Phelan of SevOne, which is "profitable and growing, so we had the option of picking" Bain.
CEO Michael Phelan of SevOne, which is "profitable and growing, so we had the option of picking" Bain.
Posted: January 17, 2013

"We're going to build a big company," says Michael Phelan, the Chester County native whose six-year-old, Wilmington-based software firm, SevOne Inc., has helped Comcast, Credit Suisse, Lockheed Martin, smartphone-makers, and other giants view, fix, and manage world-circling computer systems.

SevOne said Tuesday that it has landed a fat $150 million investment from backers led by Boston-based Bain Capital - presidential candidate Mitt Romney's old firm - which counts Domino's Pizza, Gartner Group, and Sports Authority among its successes.

Each year for four years, Phelan's firm has doubled its annual revenue, currently $30 million, and its employee head count, now 141, and is on track to do so again, he says.

"The company is profitable and growing, so we had the option of picking" Bain from a group of rival investors, Phelan told me. "The goal is to have this as a public company in the next two to three years."

Bain's cash is making Phelan's early backers rich: He says much of the investment will pay back 2007 investments totaling $3.5 million by ex-corporate lawyer Robert Adelson's Philadelphia-based Osage Ventures, ex-SunGard Data Systems chairman John Ryan, and Phelan's own friends and family - "at a huge multiple."

Phelan replaces Adelson as SevOne's chairman. Bain and other outside investors will now own about half the firm. Osage and other early investors had owned about one-third.

"We were attracted by the incredibly high satisfaction levels of SevOne's customers, the unique differentiation of their technology, and the talented management team," Bain managing director Ben Holzman said in a statement.

Phelan told me SevOne is making so much money that it doesn't need Bain's investment to grow: "We can't spend everything they've left with the company," Phelan said. The new capital does help fend off would-be acquirers. "Bain is aligned with our vision to build it big," said Phelan. The new money "makes employees a lot more comfortable."

Phelan is hoping for "a market value of $3 billion in three years," which would be a good time for an IPO, he added, laughing. "I'm having a lot of fun."

Don't shoot

While Mayor Nutter is trying to ban Philadelphia's $3 billion pension fund from holding shares of gun makers and sellers unless they agree to lobby for gun control - without knowing how much this would cost the chronically underfunded system - the $25 billion Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System says it has no reason to divest.

Through its stake in private investor Cerberus Capital Management, said SERS spokeswoman Heather Tyler, SERS owns about $1.9 million in Freedom Group, which makes the Bushmaster military-style rifle used in the Newtown, Conn., school massacre. Through other funds, SERS owns about $25,000 worth of gun maker Bushnell Outdoor Products.

Cerberus has announced plans to sell its Freedom shares, so that's going away, Tyler said. Any remaining gun exposure for the fund "will be de minimis, thus we have no plans to actively divest," she added. The fund isn't looking at such gun retailers as Cabela's, Walmart, and Dick's Sporting Goods.

Pennsylvania's state workers' and teachers' pension funds resisted earlier efforts to ban investments in South Africa during its white-minority government, but later, after lobbying by pro-Israeli groups, it adopted a ban on holding securities from companies that invest in Iran.

Contact Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194 or, or follow on Twitter @PhillyJoeD.


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