From The Editor | February 25, 2019

Thoma Bravo Buys ConnectWise, Bellini Stepping Down

Matt Pillar

By Matt Pillar, chief editor

Jason Magee (left) and Arnie Bellini (right)

Arnie Bellini is stepping down from the role he forged back in 1988, when he transitioned ConnectWise—then a managed services practice—into a business management platform for tech service providers. Under Bellini’s guidance as CEO and in the 31 years since, ConnectWise grew into an IT channel powerhouse that serves more than 25,000 partners in 65+ countries.

Bellini will transition into an advisory role with the company as he hands the wheel to Jason Magee, who joined ConnectWise as worldwide channel manager in 2011 and subsequently climbed through no fewer than six titles on his journey to succeed Bellini.

Magee accepts the mantle—and Bellini dedicates more time to training for a Europe-to-Africa swim via the strait of Gibraltar—as the company announces its complete purchase by private equity firm Thoma Bravo. That was a decision that Magee and Bellini, who have been working behind the scenes on both the leadership transition and the prospects of an IPO or private equity investment for the past several years, have not taken lightly. “We’ve historically been very cautious about who we take money from and why, which is one reason we’ve been a private equity holdout,” says Bellini. “Most companies seeking private equity will go to auction, and the highest bidder wins. We interviewed 8 private equity firms and chose Thoma Bravo because they were the best fit for ConnectWise,” he says.

Determining that fit, says Bellini, was a matter of assessing Thoma Bravo’s portfolio, which is entirely dedicated to SaaS firms and largely committed to the channel. He says another determining factor was Thoma Bravo’s willingness to work with ConnectWise on the co-creation of a 5-year plan. “I’m no spring chicken,” says Bellini. “As such, part of that 5-year plan was ensuring that these guys didn’t just like the company, but that they liked my successors [i.e. Magee and the rest of the ConnectWise management team, which will remain in tact] as well.”

For his part, Magee isn’t promising to fill Bellini’s shoes, but rather to bring his own to the IT Nation. “Over the last three years, Arnie and I have worked in lock-step to define our company’s mission and vision and develop our go-forward plan,” says Magee. “While my suits aren’t as flashy as Arnie’s,” he quips, “I’ll bring a bit more focus and execution to his vision. If Arnie was Captain Kirk, I’m Captain Picard.”

Magee has some chops to back up the comparison. During his tenure as COO, ConnectWise grew at a 21 percent cumulative annual growth rate with more than 81 percent growth in EBITDA. He played instrumental roles in several of the company’s recent strategic acquisitions and investments including ScreenConnect, HTG (now IT Nation Evolve), Perch Security, and Sienna Group.

Bellini and Magee say capital backing from Thoma Bravo will fuel ConnectWise’s commitment to driving as-a-service cybersecurity solutions, education, and go to market tools to the company’s partners. “In addition to is focus on SaaS firms, Thoma Bravo has made many investments that lean into managed services,” says Bellini. Indeed, the firm lists ABC Financial, Blue Coat Systems, Deltek, Digital Insight, Global Healthcare Exchange, Hyland Software, Imprivata, iPipeline, PowerPlan, Qlik, Quorum Software, Riverbed, SailPoint, SolarWinds, SonicWall, Sparta Systems, TravelClick and Veracode among its holdings. “They like our strategy to bring the whole ecosystem one click away, to become the platform used to deliver that sort of one-click outsourced productivity from a single pane of glass,” says Bellini.

As one might expect, there’s also a “realignment” in the works that will eliminate 110 jobs and, per Bellini, add 70 new positions in the near-term. He says the company has engaged consulting and recruiting firms to assist with the placement of those who will be displaced.

The deal finalizes February 28th. Terms were not disclosed.