MICHAEL ASHCROFT, the millionaire treasurer and financial backer of the Conservative Party, bounced back into the City spotlight yesterday with the pounds 14.6m acquisition of recruitment group Abacus.
Mr Ashcroft, a Florida-based tax exile who made pounds 150m selling his ADT security and car empire to US group Tyco last year, used his Carlisle Holdings investment vehicle to offer 189p in cash and paper for each Abacus share - a 40 per cent premium on Friday's close.
The deal, Carlisle's first acquisition since it floated on the junior AIM in July, will net Gary Ashworth, the Abacus founder and chief executive, over pounds 8.5m. Mr Ashworth, who founded Abacus at 21 and floated it on AIM two years ago, will remain as head of the group's recruitment division.
The purchase of Abacus is the first step of Mr Ashcroft's strategy to build Carlisle into a large services group centred on recruitment, security and cleaning services. The Tory grandee, whose personal fortune is estimated at around pounds 500m, formed Carlisle through the acquisition of a defunct property company chaired by Nigel Wray, the property tycoon.
Mr Ashcroft, a Belize national recently appointed the country's UN ambassador, injected Capital Group, an AIM-listed security specialist, Recruit, a private recruitment business, and LI Group, a cleaning outfit, into Carlisle.
This year Abacus posted a pre-tax profit of pounds 1.74m, up from pounds 386,000 in 1996. Shares in Abacus yesterday soared 42.5p to 177.5p. Carlisle closed 0.75p up at 15.5p.
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