Luxury in vogue as TowerBrook announces Independents investment; PwC tips UK M&A to improve

The Independents is a global marketing and communications group for luxury and lifestyle brands.

It’s a luxurious start as we take a look at TowerBrook Capital Partners and FL Entertainment announcing an investment in a marketing and comms company for luxury and lifestyle brands, a deal that sees Cathay Capital exit.

Next, we look at some M&A figures from the UK and hear the thoughts of PwC’s UK private equity leader Hugh Lloyd Ellis on whether that trend is likely to change.

Next up, Rafael Canton has an in-depth piece on how generative AI is being used to source deals, before we have news of a European private equity firm expanding in the US.

Rounding things out, Valsoft acquires a housing development services provider and a portfolio company of Equistone makes an acquisition.

In fashion

Despite all the headlines about the cost-of-living crisis, I’ve been hearing a lot from sources about how some consumer sectors are proving resilient, particularly in luxury goods targeted at consumers with enough cash to not worry too much about rising energy costs and the rest. That’s attracting private equity interest, on which PE Hub Europe’s Nina Lindholm recently wrote a round-up article.

The trend shows no sign of slowing down. TowerBrook Capital Partners and FL Entertainment have announced a $400 million investment in The Independents Group to accelerate the company’s development and international expansion.

The Independents is a global marketing and communications group for luxury and lifestyle brands. The company has communications services for brands across Milan, Paris, London, Munich, New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Seoul, Dubai, Riyadh.

Existing investor Cathay Capital will exit as part of this new deal.

The Independents’ revenue in 2023 is expected to reach $450 million, equally split between Asia, the US and Europe and the Middle East.

This investment will support The Independents in realising its plan to more than double in size by 2025 through an acquisition strategy and international expansion, according to a release.

“We believe there continue to be tremendous growth opportunities for the company, and we are as such very much looking forward to supporting the business in its next phase of development with the full contribution of our global TowerBrook eco-system,” said Fahd Elkadiri and Edouard Peugeot, MDs at TowerBrook.


There are signs that UK M&A is picking up, despite a drop in year-on-year activity, according to professional services company PwC.

The UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) yesterday posted provisional figures that deals with values of at least £1 million ($1.2 million; €1.2 million) and involving a change of control at UK companies stood at 141 in January, 100 in February and 115 in March – compared to over 150 in each of the three months in 2022.

We’ve written a lot about how conditions such as rising rates and inflation are impacting dealmaking, although these are – or will be – offset by the record levels of dry powder available at private equity firms. That chimed with a statement from Hugh Lloyd Ellis, UK private equity leader at PwC.

“We are starting to see signs of the market improving, with improved stability in the financial markets and the start of a recalibration of the gap between sellers’ expectations of value and what buyers are prepared to pay,” he added. “We expect this to continue into the autumn. Notwithstanding this, regional and mid-market PE houses have continued to be active with a range of sell-side buy-side activities.

“Public-to-private activity continues with investors seeing value in our public markets, with the UK still comparatively attractive against the dollar, which is consistent with the value of inward M&A investment for Q1 2023 compared to the previous quarter cited by ONS.”

Recent public-to-private moves include EQT and the private equity arm of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority agreeing terms on a move for UK pet pharma company Dechra. For more on the reasons driving this push for UK take-privates as well as how some of the deals are being financed, check out my recent feature.

Machines taking over

We’ve been speaking to people in the market about whether they are using ChatGPT and other generative AI systems in their processes, or looking for opportunities to invest in the technology.

You can read some of that coverage here and here, and get in touch with me at if you’d like to share your thoughts or insight about the subject.

Over on PE Hub, Rafael Canton has gone a step further and written a whole feature on the subject.

He spoke to deal sourcing service providers like SourceScrub and Finquest and found that they are using a combination of traditional AI with generative AI. Traditional AI represents web scraping and data processing, while generative AI involves training a learning model to produce original content such as music, art or words.

“Where AI comes in is: it helps scale, helps show recency and it’s comprehensive,” SourceScrub CEO Jim Obsitnik told Rafael. “We have our proprietary data set that we’ve been cultivating. But then there is this large language model that came along with ChatGPT that represents the collective knowledge of the internet all the way up through 2021. We’ve created the interconnection of those two data sets.”

Check out the full article for details on how the firms are using the tech as well as some of the drawbacks.

Across the Pond

The US market is a big attraction for European private equity firms to take their portfolio companies, not just for organic growth but also to attract potential buyers, as I wrote about a few weeks ago.

Now, one European private equity firm is looking to take advantage of that by putting boots on the ground in the US.

Keensight Capital has opened a new office in Boston, Massachusetts, which it said will help support the growth of its portfolio companies in North America.

Keensight’s US-based team will work with the firm’s global network to identify and execute on opportunities for Keensight’s portfolio companies, including both organic and inorganic growth, according to a statement.

“Now, with a physical presence, we will be even better positioned to provide the tailor-made support that our companies need,” said Jean-Michel Beghin, managing partner of Keensight Capital, in the statement.

Housing services

Valsoft Corp has acquired Shelton Development Services (SDS), a housing development services provider.

SDS is based in Cranleigh, UK.

“SDS has distinguished itself as a dependable partner in the housing development sector, backed by a solid record of accomplishments and an unwavering commitment to client satisfaction,” said Michael Assi, CEO of Aspire, the operating division of Valsoft.

Other deals in this sector lately include Apollo Impact’s announcement that it will acquire United Living Group, a provider of infrastructure, social housing maintenance and construction services in the UK.


Sihl Group, a portfolio company of Equistone Partners Europe, has acquired Trichord via its subsidiary Perigon.

Trichord is a technology company based in Surrey, England.

Sihl Group has secured full ownership of Trichord’s technology and consumables with this acquisition.

Sihl is a technology company based in Bern, Switzerland.

Perigon is a provider of a process for industrial, full-area printing of complex 3D objects. The company is based in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.