After secret $500 million Super Bowl deal, LiquidHub 'will hire thousands'

During this year’s Super Bowl, Jonathan Brassington had a $500 million secret.

The chief executive and cofounder of LiquidHub was in Minneapolis to host a gang of pharma, insurance, and investment company clients and to root for the Eagles. The day before the game, he agreed by long distance to sell his Wayne-based “digital customer engagement” company for a price double its yearly sales.

The buyer, France-based business-consulting giant Capgemini, is a public company — a big one, with $16 billion in yearly sales, a 200,000- member staff, and global clients such as Mercedes-Benz, Ikea, and Walt Disney. So, Brassington couldn’t share his inside information with all the happy, partying fellow Philadelphians around him until the official announcement Monday. The deal plus the game made for “a very exciting weekend,” he recalled, laughing.

“We were happy to congratulate Jonathan” on the Eagles win as well as the sale, said Cyril Garcia, head of digital services at Capgemini and Brassington’s new boss, from his Paris office last week. Garcia took a special vicarious pleasure in the victory by the team from the place he had just bought an outpost, so it’s no wonder that Garcia is looking forward to spending time in Philly.

“LiquidHub will be the platform for [Capgemini’s] digital business in the U.S.,” Paul Hermelin, Capgemini’s chief executive, told investors in a conference call after announcing higher profits Thursday.

Brassington, he added, is a big part of the deal. The “stability” of the acquisition “depends on the leader’s decision to embark with us for his career. If not, he leaves, and there would be a high volatility.”

“I intend to be around for quite a while,” Brassington said. “Capgemini is a global, multicultural firm. Being able to take that breadth to our clients, and to take LiquidHub’s secret sauce around customer engagement into the Capgemini universe, it’s quite an opportunity professionally.”

LiquidHub IT outsourcing, digital design, and strategy clients have included GlaxoSmithKline, Independence Blue Cross, Merck, Subaru, and Vanguard.

Brassignton and partners Rob Kelley and Lee Yohannan founded LiquidHub in 2000, after working together at Philadelphia’s Broadreach Consulting. LiquidHub grew with help from Pennsylvania state grants and tax credits totaling $612,000 through 2010. The company now has about 2,800 employees.

LiquidHub’s headquarters in Wayne “will be the place to host new talents, new recruitments, and potentially new acquisitions,” Garcia said.

“We are trying to enrich our data skills and our creativity design, two strong components inside LiquidHub that we want to reinforce,” he added.

During the investor call, analyst Toby Ogg of JPMorgan noted that in the rush to acquire more U.S. consulting businesses, Capgemini is “up against Accenture, Cognizant, and private-equity firms” that are also seeking to enlarge their North American operations and compete against Deloitte and other global providers.

Capgemini has purchased other U.S. design, strategy, and consulting firms, and has a pre-merger office in Horsham; there are no plans to combine spaces as yet, though “we expect, being part of one Capgemini universe, we will be tightly collaborating with our colleagues,” Brassington added.

Brassington said he and Garcia spent much of last week meeting in Paris “about our growth ambitions as a company and where we expect, on a combined basis, to go.”

Asked if the merger would result in cost-cutting and streamlining, Brassington said it’s the opposite.

“I would expect we will be hiring thousands of people,” he said. “We will continue to add talent.”