Private equity firm Catterton Partners acquires ePrize

Posted on August 22, 2012

Metro Detroit interactive promotions company ePrize LLC said Tuesday it was bought by a private equity firm, opening the way for acquiring other tech firms and investing in more technology to helps its clients.

The sale of Pleasant Ridge-based ePrize to Catterton Partners for an undisclosed price means founder Josh Linkner and investor Quicken Loans Inc. Chairman Dan Gilbert have sold their stakes in the company, ePrize CEO Matt Wise said Tuesday. Wise and his leadership team remain in place.

The purchase by Greenwich, Conn.-based Catterton Partners, a consumer-focused private equity firm that manages companies with more than $2.5 billion, will have more resources to help ePrize be more aggressive in buying other technology companies and invest more in technology for its business, Wise said.

“There is a tremendous amount of growth in front of us,” he said.

Linkner concurred.

“It is a win for the team, a win for the investors and a win for the region,” he said, adding that he has no regrets about selling his stake and is concentrating on his technology venture capital work at Detroit Venture Partners.

Gilbert had no comment, according to a Quicken Loans spokeswoman.

ePrize, which employs nearly 500 across the country, already has hired 50 staffers this year and plans to hire another 30, mostly in Metro Detroit, Wise said. The company administers four times more national campaigns than any other firm and has clients comprise more than half of the Fortune 500, ePrize said.

While Linkner and Gilbert are ending their ties to the business, the acquisition by Catterton Partners is another sign of the vitality of Detroit’s emerging technology sector, he said.

“It’s a really good thing for Detroit,” Wise said. “It shows that you can start a tech firm and succeed in the Detroit area.”

But the Catterton purchase doesn’t end the speculation about whether ePrize will move to downtown Detroit, something Gilbert has sought.

“As we expand, we are actively looking to locate downtown,” Wise said.

Any decision will depend on whether downtown is economically and environmentally attractive to the company, he said. If all conditions are equal, the edge goes to Detroit, Wise said.

Michael Martinez, Detroit News