As part of our 20th anniversary year, we revisit our acquisition by a global oil company – and how we became independent again.
By 1998, CompanyNet had gained a strong reputation as a Microsoft Partner in Scotland through its work with a number of very high-calibre clients, including Standard Life, the Bank of Scotland, and the Scottish Office. (You can read more about our work with our early customers in the previous post in this series.)
In March that year, our success led to the business being acquired by one of those customers. Burmah-Castrol was, at the time, a leading Scottish oil business. It was quickly becoming obvious that a company of its size needed its own web development capability, and by acquiring us, Burmah-Castrol could quickly add an accomplished and highly-skilled web division to their arsenal.
We had worked with Burmah-Castrol since our early days, on a mix of projects for its various subsidiaries. These included extranets for Castrol UK to help garage workshops with product information and ordering, and for Foseco to support aluminium foundries around the country.
Investing in innovation
The success of those projects led Burmah-Castrol to see the huge opportunity in the work we were doing. “By investing in CompanyNet, Burmah-Castrol has secured itself a stake in the future,” their in-house magazine said at the time. “Their skill set is outside Burmah-Castrol’s normal area of activity, and the investment is a window on this developing world.”
Jean-Paul Richter, who was then Burmah-Castrol’s Innovation Director, said he was impressed by CompanyNet: “The company has dealt very well with the rapid growth in a field where the demands are complex and ever-changing.”
Our independence day
The acquisition allowed us to grow in size, from 20 people to around 30, and gave us the confidence to work on a global scale. However, it was all change again when, in 2000, Burmah-Castrol was acquired by BP Amoco. At the end of that year, our directors took the opportunity to undertake a management buyout.
We had continued to turn a profit every year, making CompanyNet an attractive business. Together with Caledonian Heritable Investments, who gained a 49 per cent stake, our management took the company back to being an independent software business.
A further management buyout took place in 2010, with the current directors acquiring the portion of the company owned by Caledonian Heritable, and we remain proudly independent to this day.