The high-profile departure of Alchemy Partners chief Jon Moulton this weekend reverberated through to business software house COA Solutions, where he was a non-executive director. John Stokdyk reports.
Moulton, a former insolvency practitioner, founded Alchemy Partners in 1997 and masterminded its push to create a consolidated software group. Beginning with the acquisition of Cedar Group in 2001, followed by portions of Walker International in 2002 and OpenAccounts in 2004, Alchemy supported a series of nine acquisitions (including Grampian Software and Version One) to create what is now claimed to be the UK’s third biggest applications company.
To kick off Alchemy’s business software adventure, Moulton took the reins for the the first few months to bed down a back-to-basics strategy. “Like many of our acquisitions, Cedar was poorly managed. It had unhappy customers, no support, and no clear product roadmaps. The only thing they could do was pour booze down their clients’ necks, which was not a sustainable strategy,” he told AccountingWEB in 2005.
COA Solutions was just one of Alchemy’s many investments, but as deals dried up in the recent downturn, Moulton lost faith in the colleagues around him, particularly his heir apparent, Dominic Slade.
In a letter to the Financial Times announcing his retirement Moulton claimed “Alchemy is not what it was” and took issue with Slade's plan to turn the firm into a financial services specialist.
"I do not support this strategy,” Moulton announced. The firm was in such a state that he advised an orderly termination of its overall investment plan.
With such a forthright and media-savvy figurehead on board, COA gained invaluable publicity from Moulton’s involvement, for example in a series of “How to survive the recession” seminars he hosted during the past 18 months.
But he also provided a very well informed guiding hand behind the scenes, according to COA Solutions director of product strategy Mark Lane.
“When Alchemy got involved with us in the first instance, Jon was directly involved in the major reorganisation that took place. Once we got that out of the way, the relationship has matured. We’ve increased our revenue five times and are now turning over £60m,” Lane said
“We knew that he intended to retire, but were surprised it was brought forward.”