Crawford makes £76m from sale of software group

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The Independent Online

Gordon Crawford, the technology entrepreneur, is set to bank £76m in cash from the sale of his London Bridge Software group to a US bidder.

Mr Crawford, 48, has agreed to sell his 45 per cent stake in the company he founded in 1987 to Fair Isaac, a Nasdaq-listed software company, which has offered to buy up the group. The 95p a share cash offer values the business at about £166m and represents a 54 per cent premium to London Bridge's share price on Friday.

The move will see Mr Crawford cash in on about 80 per cent of his fortune, which is estimated at about £90m and includes a stake in Innovation, a rival software company. Mr Crawford, who owns a 6,000-acre estate in the Scottish Highlands worth about £2m, will stay on as a consultant.

London Bridge was floated seven years ago and its market value peaked at about £2.5bn in 2000 when the shares were trading at more than £64. Had Mr Crawford cashed in then, he would have made more than £1bn.

The company has struggled to recover from the collapse in technology stocks and a downturn in spending on software by corporates. Pre-tax profits for 2003 were £4.1m before exceptionals. But London Bridge, which specialises in credit card and consumer finance software for banks and loan companies, has cashed in on the consumer borrowing boom and yesterday's takeover was a further sign of a recovery in the technology markets. It follows a number of high-profile deals such as the flotations of NETeller and Dealogic.

London Bridge will continue to pay out its 0.7p final dividend, worth another £1.2m to shareholders. Mr Crawford will also pick up another £1.71m from share options triggered by the takeover. Together with these share options, Mr Crawford stands to make more than £76m. "We believe the recommended offer by Fair Isaac provides our shareholders with certainty and value at a significant premium to the current market value. Customers of both companies will have access to a broader range of products," Mr Crawford said yesterday.

The conditions of the bid mean that it will stay in place even if a higher competing offer comes forward.