Tuesday, August 9, 2022
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Debnam’s business drew huge buyout interest

Dean Debnam may be best known in North Carolina for his ardent financial support for Democratic candidates and disdain for the state’s Republican leadership. But he’s also proved to be a terrific business person. He built Workplace Options into a 900-employee enterprise that contracts with companies to help arrange various services for more than 75 million employees in 200 countries, such as arranging mental health counseling and finding housing for elderly parents. 

New York City-based private equity firm WindRose Investors agreed to buy Debnam’s shares this week. Terms and revenue weren’t disclosed. CEO Alan King, who joined Debnam in 2002, will continue to lead the business, which has 900 staffers including 375 in the Triangle. Debnam has been chairman.

Providing essential services to employees is a solid business strategy given the unprecedented labor shortage and the cost of replacing talented workers. No wonder more than 100 other investment groups looked at the deal before Debnam picked WindRose.

In a 2016 Business North Carolina story, Debnam said he owned 85% of the company with the balance held by King and two other executives. Revenue then was about $65 million annually.

A classic entrepreneur, Debnam told writer Jack Betts that “I haven’t been employed [by someone else] since I was 17, and I don’t want to end my career working for someone else.” He owns other businesses and office buildings in Raleigh.

King discussed the sale in an email yesterday.  

Why sell now? 

We recognized that a partnership would create an opportunity for further growth and expansion. It was essential that WPO found a partner who understood the company – who respected WPO’s business and business model, culture, mission,  people and passion for the company mission. The result of that search is a partnership with WindRose Health Investors, a highly respected New York-based health care private equity firm.

What are Dean Debnam’s plans?

Dean will focus his time on family and his other businesses.

How has the company grown so fast in the last two years?

WPO’s agility and flexibility have allowed us to pivot quickly to address market opportunities. In addition, we have a  relentless focus on creating new and specialty products and services tailored to meet the growing and changing needs of multinational corporations in a diverse set of industries during the pandemic. We continue to invest in our infrastructure, technology and operations to offer the best support and services to attract top talent, offer exceptional services and support WPO’s growth.

What made WindRose the right PE group to work with?

Workplace Options choose WindRose from more than 120 interested firms. Alan and Dean were confident that they found a team who possess all the qualities they were looking for and who have a track record of success and a proven commitment to personal health and wellbeing.

Will there be any management ownership?

Yes

Did you sell before Dec. 31 because of fears of higher taxes in 2022?  

Entering into the partnership with WindRose Health Partners was not due to the fear of higher taxes in 2022.

David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg is editor of Business North Carolina. Reach him at dmildenberg@businessnc.com.

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