Berkeley Research Group Aligns to Lead NSO Private Equity Owner

Updates from NSO Group Technologies

Consulting firm Berkeley Research Group has been appointed to take control of the private equity fund that owns Israeli spyware maker NSO Group, a move that would give the California-based company an important voice in NSO’s future.

Investors in private equity fund Novalpina Capital which bought out the watch company in 2019 this month made the highly unusual move to ousting Novalpina because of a dispute between its co-founders.

The billion-euro fund’s biggest investors have now chosen BRG to replace Novalpina, two people with knowledge of the matter said, although the move has yet to be officially approved and investors have until the 6th. August to vote on the nomination.

If appointed, BRG would be given the mandate to liquidate the Novalpina fund and return the money to investors by selling the three companies it owns, including NSO, at the highest possible price. BRG declined to comment.

NSO faces legal action from Facebook over allegations it used WhatsApp to send malware to more than 1,000 customers, which could complicate any sales process.

This month a report by the non-profit journalism organization Forbidden Stories and 17 media partners said NSO’s software was used to target the phones of journalists, activists and people close to murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

NSO disputed Facebook’s claims and described the Forbidden Stories report as “full of flawed assumptions and unsubstantiated theories.”

Along with NSO, the Novalpina fund owns Estonian gambling company Olympic Entertainment Group and French pharmaceutical company Laboratoire XO

Four people related to Novalpina, including two of the co-founders of private equity firm Stephen Peel and Stefan Kowski, sit on NSO’s board of directors. RBG’s deal, if accepted, would likely allow the consulting firm to replace them, said two people involved in the process.

The decision to remove control of the fund from the private equity firm, an extremely unusual step that marked the culmination of months of unrest at Novalpina, came after investors concluded that relations between its co-founders, Peel, Kowski and Bastian Lueken, had deteriorated. so much so that they could no longer work together on investments, said one in attendance.

The vote to oust Novalpina was backed by investors representing 99.6% of the fund’s value, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

Novalpina bought NSO Group from private equity firm Francisco Partners in February 2019, in a deal valuing the company at $ 1 billion.

BRG, headquartered in California, advises companies on corporate finance, performance improvement, and litigation and investigations according to its website.

Its asset management business “acts as sub-advisers or alternative asset managers specializing in the management of contested or tail investments,” the site says, acting to help “maximize return of capital to investors “.

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