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Poynton and partners go

THE long-awaited handover of Perth boutique advisory and consulting firm Poynton and Partners has been agreed, allowing a smooth transition for new management to take over from founders Mark Barnaba and John Poynton.

A team of four directors, appointed by South African-based AST and led by joint managing directors Robert Radley and Darren Smith, will officially take over from the start of the New Year.

The changes will create a very different company, as Poynton and Partners and its stablemate GEM Consulting start to rely more heavily on AST for business and, after a changeover period, seek to better penetrate Asia.

Mr Barnaba and Mr Poynton will remain officially linked to the firm they founded as co-chairs of an advisory board for at least two years.

But, as expected, the pair is set on establishing a corporate advisory and capital raising operation in the second half of 2004, bringing in another departing founder of their most recent venture, Geoff Rasmussen.

The three founded the business, with another partner Errol Levitt, in the mid-1990s after a leadership coup at the former Hartley Poynton broking business.

Four years ago they sold the business to AST in a four-year deal rumoured to be worth as much as $70 million.

AST Group finance director Marthinus Erasmus said his company was happy with final result, which leaves it with a 23-strong Perth-based business operating in every corner of the globe.

“It has been a very interesting four years,” Mr Erasmus said.

“The business was acquired before a time when consulting went through a bad patch.”

He said everyone had worked through a particularly tough period in the market and the business was tracking very well.

“For the past 18 months the business has been performing very well,” Mr Erasmus said.

The Poynton and Partners/GEM Consulting business expected to earn $9 million pre-tax this calendar year, compared with $7.3 million pre-tax for the 1999-2000 financial year during which it was bought.

Mr Smith said the changeover offered an opportunity to drive new business out of AST in South Africa, where the parent company has some strong relationships.

“We are keen to rebuild from a new base,” he said.

Mr Smith, a former technology focused business strategy development adviser at Arthur D Little, said that, while AST would retain 100 per cent control of the Perth-based operation, there was an arrangement for the new management to take equity based on undisclosed hurdle rates and performance targets.

Mr Radley joined the firm in a full-time capacity about a year ago.

Nathan Agnew and Brian Beresford will be the other two faces on the new management team.

Mr Poynton said everyone involved in the original partnership had worked closely together for nine years and he planned to take a break before embarking on a new venture.

“We would like to take the more effective elements we have done here in corporate finance and apply them elsewhere,” he said.

Generally, Mr Poynton said, he expected to have a focus in championing Australian intellectual property overseas, with a heavy bent on technology but also working in energy and natural resources.

Mr Barnaba, who steps down as managing director, said he saw the new move as working in tandem with the AST-owned Perth operation, using their skills in areas such as due diligence.

“We would see ourselves working with Darren and Robert and their firm, feeding them that type of work,” he said.

And what about Mr Poynton leaving yet another firm behind with his surname on it?

“That is a real issue. Given what happened last time I am particularly sensitive,” he said. “The next firm’s brand will reflect the fact that it is not just me and it will not have the name Poynton in it.”

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