European Capital buys Hillarys

Buyout house European Capital has backed the €337m tertiary buyout of UK window blinds manufacturer Hillarys Blinds from Change Capital Partners. This is trebling its initial investment in the Nottingham firm.

This is the first exit from a portfolio company by Change Capital Partners since the firm was founded in 2003 by Luc Vandevelde former chairman of Mark & Spencer.

The firm is understood to have beaten competition including HBOS and ABN AMRO Capital.

European Capital’s investment comprises equity, loan notes, mezzanine debt and senior term loans, and gives it a 52% stake in the business. Hillarys’ management team is also investing in equity and loan notes.

Ira Wagner, president of European Capital’s sub-investment manager European Capital Financial Services, said the firm would refinance the senior debt in the transaction “very quickly”.

The deal, completed through European Capital’s Bellotto Acquisition vehicle, sees the company change hands for the second time since it was bought by Close Brothers Private Equity for £115m in 2004, following which Change Capital Partners pushed to forge closer links between the business and fellow portfolio company Robert Dyas, a DIY retailer.

CBPE funded the original £50m buyout from founder Tony Hillary in May 2001.

Advisers on the deal included law firm Kirkland & Ellis International, which advised Change Capital Partners. The firm also acted as lead counsel on Change Capital Partners’ initial acquisition of Hillarys.

The deal comes as European Capital announces a €55m investment in Go Voyages, a French online travel agent in France, to back its acquisition by Financière Agache Private Equity. That investment comprises senior and junior mezzanine bonds and preferred and common equity.