Why NSP made a prince of a deal with Noblis

National Security Partners had everything in place to keep growing as an independent company, so why sell to Noblis? Co-founder Rick Knop explains.

National Security Partners had plenty of know-how and firepower to continue on its way as an independent company in a robust market for cyber intelligence consulting and solutions.

It didn't need to be sold to Noblis in a deal that closed this week.

The husband and wife founder team of Rick Knop and Leslee Belluchie had both the merger and acquisition experience from Knop’s investment banker days and operational expertise from Belluchie’s time at SI International and other companies to keep the company growing.

But Knop and Belluchie also knew Noblis well, and when that company kept knocking on their door, they had to listen.

“They kept coming back to us and telling us what a great strategic fit we were,” Knop said. “We filled a hole for them.”

That hole is in the cyber work NSP does for several intelligence agencies, which complemented the work Noblis does such as airborne ISR and homeland security.

“They have a very high end culture that values knowledge creation and collaboration and that’s the kind of culture we’ve built at NSP,” Knop said.

Another attraction was that Noblis wanted everyone, including Belluchie, NSP’s CEO, to stay with the company. She’ll now serve as president of NSP, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Noblis. Knop, who wasn't involved in day-to-day operations, will continue to run FedCap Partners, the private equity firm that owned NSP, and has other companies in its portfolio.

“There is no intellectual fallout here,” Knop said of the sale to Noblis. “And that’s always a risk with acquisitions.”

The fallout likely would have been significant if NSP had gone into an auction process and been shopped around. Knop said he has no doubt a larger company likely would have gobbled up the company and would not have been kept it as a wholly-owned subsidiary.

If that happened, much of what Knop, Belluchie and others at NSP had been building would have been lost.

Avoiding that fate was important to Knop and Belluchie. “This is part of our legacy,” he said.

So, NSP had found a prince in Noblis, and it just couldn’t resist the courtship.

The relative size of the two companies also was a plus. At $219 million in 2013 revenue, the addition of NSP is large enough to have a real impact on the company and will likely push annual revenues to the $280 million to $290 million range, he said.

“This is such a compelling value proposition and a great cultural and strategic fit. It is going to be very good for our employees,” he said. “The new Noblis will be a company to reckon with.”