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Acquisition of Miller Heiman arrives earlier than expected

John Seelmeyer

Executives of Reno-based Miller Heiman knew the sales training company’s equity fund owner planned to sell Miller Heiman as soon as it reached its financial goals.

They didn’t know it would happen so quickly.

The privately held company said last week it’s been purchased in a deal led by Sterling Investment Partners and a group of Miller Heiman managers led by Sam Reese, its president and chief executive officer. Other investors in the transaction include GE Capital, Madison Capital and York Street Capital Partners.

Price and other terms weren’t disclosed by the buyers or by the company’s previous owner, Leeds Equity Partners LLC of New York City.

Miller Heiman employs about 40 at its Reno headquarters and also operates offices in the United Kingdom and Australia.

Leigh Hooker, executive vice president for sales and marketing operations at Miller Heiman, said executives of the company’s previous owner, Leeds Equity Partners, had been clear in their plans to someday sell Miller Heiman. Leeds Equity bought the Reno company in a leveraged buyout in 2005.

But Hooker said Leeds executives, as well as the managers of Miller Heiman, had expected that Leeds would need about five years to reach its financial goals. Instead, it reached them in three years and decided it was time to take some of its investors’ money off the table.

“We’ve had strong growth, and we have experienced great financial success,” Hooker said.

She said Miller Heiman’s top managers quickly set their sights on Sterling Investment Partners as they searched for a partner in their effort to buy the company.

“They bubbled to the top of the list very quickly,” Hooker said.

Sterling Investment Partners, headquartered at Westport, Conn., has about $1 billion invested in mid-market companies companies generating revenues of $50 million to $300 million a year.

Hooker said Miller Heiman executives were particularly interested in Sterling Investment’s willingness to inject fresh capital into the company to support more growth.

Doug Newhouse, a partner in Sterling Investment, said the company expects to work closely with Miller Heiman’s management to support development of new sales-training projects and open new markets worldwide.

“The company is the recognized leader in a very attractive market, with a premier brand name and long-term relationships with numerous blue-chip clients,” Newhouse said.

Miller Heiman was launched in Reno 30 years ago.