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'Buy-out' threatens Kroll takeover bid

Takeover talks between Kroll, the world's biggest corporate detective agency, and US credit information group Equifax have been hit by a proposed management buy-out by rebels at its London office, writes Paul Farrelly.

Kroll sources say that Kroll UK managing director Arish Turle and chairman Richard Bradley are trying to put together an MBO following tensions with founder Jules Kroll.

The buy-out plans also extend to the Frankfurt, Paris and Moscow offices, which together with London make up Kroll's European division, one of its four operating arms worldwide.

Talks with Equifax have been going on since last summer and the agency is understood to have agreed a deal in principle earlier this month.

Confirming the MBO proposals, one senior Kroll executive said the firm hoped nonetheless to put the split behind it.

"We have been talking with Equifax. Over the last few months those discussions have moved on. It is still probable that something will happen over the next couple of months," the executive said.

Founded in New York in 1972, Kroll pioneered professional detection work for big corporate clients. After its heyday in the takeover boom of the 1980s, it is understood to have enjoyed a resurgence with record revenues of over $70m last year.

Although Mr Kroll has long wanted to cash in, such firms are notoriously difficult to sell because of the personalities involved. If staff walk, clients also tend to follow.

Industry sources say, however, that negotiations with Equifax have also been held up by property matters and disagreements over the value of amounts owed to Kroll from clients.

Equifax is also understood to be concerned as to how to present buying a firm of "private eyes" to shareholders.