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Preqin’s founder nets £2bn payday as BlackRock comes calling

A British data and analytics business founded 21 years ago was today snapped up for £2.55bn – four-fifths of which will go to its founder.

Preqin, which specialises in providing data and information on the private equity sector and other alternative assets, is being bought by BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager.

The sale will net approximately £2.04bn to Valhalla Ventures, the family holding company of Mark O’Hare, Preqin’s founder.

The remaining £510m will be shared between management and employees at Preqin, which is based near London’s Victoria station and which employs more than 500 people in all of the world’s major financial centres including New York, Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong.

A number of them are expected to become millionaires many times over as a result.

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Image:
Larry Fink is BlackRock’s founder and chief executive. Pic: Reuters

Remarkably, the deal means that after its completion, Mr O’Hare’s personal net worth will be greater than that of Larry Fink, BlackRock’s founder, chairman and chief executive and one of the financial world’s most influential figures.

Mr O’Hare, who will join BlackRock as a vice-chair, said today: “BlackRock is known for excellence in both investment management and financial technology, and together we can accelerate our efforts to deliver better private markets data and analytics to all of our clients at scale.

“I look forward to joining BlackRock and continuing to play a role in the continued growth and success of Preqin and our customers.”

High-flying O’Hare

Preqin is not the first business to have been built and sold by 65-year old Mr O’Hare.

Educated at the University of Cambridge, where he graduated with a first in Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics, Mr O’Hare – who also represented his college in rowing – went on to study finance at London Business School before joining Boston Consulting Group (BCG), advising clients in Europe, the US and Africa across several industries including financial services, healthcare, retail, industrial and consumer products.

After seven years at BCG, Mr O’Hare – who was born in London but was raised in Glasgow and speaks with a slight Scottish accent – left in 1986 to set up an independent consultancy called Goodall, Alexander, O’Hare & Co. Then, in 1993, he launched Citywatch, a provider of financial information which specialised in the monitoring and measuring of UK equity ownership.

He sold the business to Reuters in 1998 for a reported £2.5m – four-fifths of which went to him – and left the following year reunited with his former colleague Chris Goodall to set up e-Acorn.com, a business launched to provide seed funding and advice to internet start-ups.

While the bursting of the dot-com bubble put paid to those plans, Mr O’Hare – a part-time pilot who in June 1999 crash-landed his Piper Seneca seven-seat light aircraft – resurfaced in 2003 to launch Private Equity Intelligence, or Preqin.

As private equity grew in importance as an asset class, so too did Preqin, which in 2016 acquired Baxon Solutions as a way of providing its data and solutions via the cloud. It sold the business three years later but two years on from that, in 2021, snapped up a private markets technology, services and administration business called Colmore.

Preqin Academy

Around the same time it also launched Preqin Academy as a free online resource for students, early-career professionals and market participants wanting to learn more about the alternative assets industry.

Mr O’Hare, a frequent correspondent to the letters pages of the Financial Times down the years, stepped down as chief executive in 2022 and it was reported that the business had been put up for sale.

The sale price, though, is considerably higher than the initial £1bn valuation that was originally touted. The FT reported today that the ratings and financial data giant S&P had expressed an interest in Preqin, as had Bloomberg, the terminals giant.

Preqin is the latest big-ticket acquisition involving a data provider.

IHS Markit, another UK-founded business, was acquired in 2020 for £32bn by S&P while the same year saw the London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) pay Thomson Reuters £20bn for its financial and risk business Refinitiv.

Fast-growing private markets sector

For BlackRock, the attraction of Preqin is that it takes the funds giant further into the fast-growing field of private markets, an area of growing interest to fund managers and their clients.

Rob Goldstein, chief operating officer at BlackRock, noted that the company had been a client of Preqin for a number of years.

He added: “BlackRock’s vision has always been to bring together investments, technology, and data to offer solutions that meet our clients’ needs across their whole portfolio.

“As clients increasingly evolve their focus from choosing products to constructing portfolios, this shift requires technology, data, and analytics that create a ‘common language’ for investing across both public and private markets. We see data powering the industry across technology, capital formation, investing, and risk management.”

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Away from work, Mr O’Hare and his South African-born wife Lindy, who have four children, have other passions.

Thorington Theatre

The couple own Stone House Farm, a Grade-II listed farmhouse near Southwold on the Suffolk coast, where in 2019 – just before the pandemic – they decided to build an open-air theatre in a patch of woodland where there was a natural clearing as a result of a Second World War bomb.

Thorington Theatre, a 350-seat venue, welcomed its first audiences in June 2021. Initially, the couple thought the venue would just be used by local theatre and amateur dramatic groups, but it rapidly became much bigger.

Mrs O’Hare, a former interior designer, told The Stage last year her ultimate ambition was to have the Royal Shakespeare Company bring a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to the theatre.

But she added: “One day, Ed Sheeran will come. He lives at Framlingham, so he’s only down the road. That’s the dream.”

The couple now have the wherewithal to offer the singer a decent fee, too.

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