The CitNOW Group was founded in 2008, and Geoffrey Page-Morris joined the business in 2016 as Executive Chair before being appointed CEO in June 2021. Geoffrey’s built a successful career for himself in the automotive industry, having spent almost 20 years at the UK car dealership Synter Group before joining CitNOW. Working with some of the most prestigious vehicle brands, including Jaguar Land Rover, Audi, BMW, Lexus and Volkswagen, has given him great visibility of the automotive industry’s challenges. This has confirmed his belief that CitNOW’s solutions can create more honest, open and transparent relationships between car dealerships and customers.
After eight months of conversations with a number of private equity firms, as well as considering a trade sale, private equity – and Tenzing – won out.
“I didn’t want to just sell what we created to a big organisation. Our company culture is very important to me and building on the foundations of the previous 10 years with the same passion and enthusiasm may not have been possible in a large corporate hierarchy,” recalls Alistair Horsburgh, CitNOW’s former CEO, now Chief Revenue Officer. “We knew we could continue to grow the business, however the challenge was how to grow it in the same spirit and focus.”
It all came down to a “human touch”, Alistair affirms. “We chose Tenzing because we felt they could give us the kind of human touch we wanted.”
“With some of the other private equity firms we spoke to, we were concerned we’d be working with a different board member after the deal was signed,” he adds.
Being part of a “profitable success story, rather than just a success story” has been a big driver for Alistair in pursuing scale with an investment partner like Tenzing.
“There’s this sense of satisfaction that you can achieve the status of market leader, that you’ve got the best products in the marketplace, that we’re the only people in the world that do what we do, and nobody else is coming close to us,” Alistair remarks.
“I’m really proud of how we’ve cured some really big pain points in an industry that has suffered from the stereotype of a lack of trust, transparency, and integrity. We’ve managed to overlay a product that’s easy to use for a dealership and helps them to overcome some of the negative perceptions of the industry.”
With Tenzing as its investment partner, CitNOW has made nine acquisitions with the support of one of Tenzing’s dedicated Acquisitions Directors. Partnering with US-based Quik saw CitNOW expand its global footprint and accelerate US expansion, whilst the acquisitions of Netherlands-based Web1on1, UK-based Auto Imaging, AutoSLM, Dealerdesk, Real Time Communications, Reef Business Systems, Dealerweb and Tootle enabled the company to increase the value it provides to clients through additional products and services, and increase the reach of its market-leading products throughout the customer journey.
Tenzing’s Sales Specialist supported the team to develop an effective sales process for expanding into Europe, while CitNOW’s Sherpa assisted CEO Geoffrey Page-Morris on special projects to help accelerate growth.
The automotive player has now firmly established itself as a global market leader, with over 13 million sales opportunities created, 60 million videos processed and over 10,000 dealer installations across 64 countries. It is currently the most penetrated vendor of automotive software in the UK market, with approximately 75% of predominantly franchised dealerships using at least one of its products.
In July 2022, we exited CitNOW Group to Livingbridge, generating a return of 9.6x invested capital and a 74% IRR. Due to the high conviction Tenzing had about the additional value CitNOW can create, we materially reinvested from both Tenzing Fund II and Tenzing Belay alongside Livingbridge.
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