A private equity firm needed a new CEO to drive growth, structure and leadership in a portfolio company. They turned to Townsend Search Group to deliver change-making talent.

Framing the Challenge

After adding an automotive engineering services company to their portfolio, a private equity firm approached Townsend to lead the search for a new CEO. The company was underperforming, with a lagging commercial strategy. The client needed reenergized leadership to organize and focus the operation for growth.

The search coincided with the portfolio company closing an add-on acquisition they would need to leverage effectively. As a long-term Townsend collaborator, the client trusted our search team to identify a leader who could enhance the company’s value and ultimately attract new investors.

With the portfolio company occupying a niche sector of automotive engineering services, our team had a challenge ahead of us. We knew it would take extensive exploration to identify a candidate with the right combination of leadership DNA, skills and experience.

Gauging Priorities

After consulting with our client’s leadership team, Townsend delivered an initial slate of candidates with specific experience within the company’s niche industry.

It quickly became apparent that the candidates either lacked the necessary experience or were not a solid cultural fit. After dialogue with the client, our team recommended the search process be recalibrated to focus on core priorities—and core values.

Our team helped the client identify non-negotiables in the new CEO. The business required structure, accountability, focus and leadership. The right candidate needed a solid technical background and the ability to operate effectively in the automotive ecosystem. Beyond that, we set aside industry requirements to identify a pool of candidates with the vision, expertise and energy to elevate employee morale and drive organizational growth.

When approaching a search, our team builds regular opportunities for client feedback during discovery and the ensuing process. At every stage, we seek to understand what the client sees, what questions the process raises, and, ultimately, what is important to them.

Moments of recalibration can make or break an executive search. But building in regular checks and balances helps us develop a strong foundation of trust from the outset, so our clients are confident their goals are consistently guiding our vision.

The Right Approach for the Right Fit

After Townsend identified a second slate of candidates, a firm winner quickly came to the foreground. Even in early conversations, the candidate could effectively communicate the company’s purpose, expectations and goals.

He had exceptional soft skills, high emotional intelligence and a solid technical background. He was engaging and personable yet focused. He had high expectations of his team and himself — and understood how to work with them to realize their potential.

In short, he had what it takes to transform an underperforming company into an attractive investment prospect.

Industry-Leading Growth

In just over two years, the candidate transformed our client’s portfolio company. Where it had previously been stuck in a command-and-control style of leadership, the new CEO was able to drive ownership and accountability into functional units. He significantly contributed to the company’s value, tapping Townsend to help identify new sales leaders along the way.

During his tenure, the equity sponsor adjusted the CEO’s equity participation program to recognize his contributions and ensure his retention.

When the company went to market, the new CEO led management presentations throughout the sale process. He successfully articulated the company’s progress and the opportunities ahead. In 2022 the company was successfully acquired by a strategic buyer.

In engaging Townsend, our client sought a CEO who could drive meaningful growth that would make a previously underperforming portfolio company attractive for sale. Just over two years later, Townsend’s candidate improved the company’s value, completed a successful exit and cemented the value of our client’s investment in change-making talent.


Is your portfolio company ready for transformative leadership? Get in touch with the Townsend Search team and experience The Journey to place top executive talent.