Ex-business journalist in line for £3.6m from headhunting firm sale

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The Independent Online

A former financial journalist stands to make up to £3.6m after striking a deal yesterday to sell the executive headhunting firm she founded six years ago to Whitehead Mann.

A former financial journalist stands to make up to £3.6m after striking a deal yesterday to sell the executive headhunting firm she founded six years ago to Whitehead Mann.

Carol Leonard, who owns 100 per cent of her company, agreed to sell Leonard Hull for an initial £1.61m, including a cash payment of £1m, ending more than two years of talks with Whitehead Mann. She will receive up to £2m more, depending on how well her company fares in the next three years.

Stephen Lawrence, the chief executive of Whitehead Mann, said the acquisition would open more FTSE 100-boardroom doors for his group. Despite being renowned as the City's top headhunter, Whitehead Mann's reputation was dealt a blow earlier this year when it recommended Sir Ian Prosser for the job of J Sainsbury's new chairman, only for shareholders immediately to hound him out.

"We weren't looking to sell but it's very flattering to have an approach from someone like Whitehead Mann," Ms Leonard said. Being part of a larger group "short circuits our own growth plan", she added. All 11 Leonard Hull employees will join Whitehead Mann at its Mayfair office.

News of the deal will come as a blow to Ffion Hague, the wife of the former Conservative leader, who until recently was a partner at Leonard Hull. The windfall for Ms Leonard, who spent six years as a financial journalist at The Times, will add to the considerable gains she will have made since setting up the company in 1998: headhunters typically take finder's fees equal to one-third of their appointment's first-year earnings.

Leonard Hull, which had a turnover of £2.1m in the year to 30 April 2003, fills posts for companies in the public sector as well as in the FTSE 100. It was responsible for Sly Bailey's appointment as chief executive of Trinity Mirror, and the choice of Jane Lighting to run Five, the TV channel.

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