Stephen Wiehe, who took SciQuest private and pivoted the firm then took it public, is now taking it private again. Why?

In a Q&A, WRAL TechWire talked with Wiehe, one of the Triangle’s longest-serving CEOs, about the deal, which was announced early Tuesday. Shares spiked nearly 33 percent on the news, nearly matching the price offered by private equity firm Accel-KKR.

Being privately held by a multi-billion-dollar private equity fund means more opportunities to grow the business, he says. But there’s more to the story – and there’s no guarantee that SciQuest (Nasdaq: SQI) will even end up being owned by Accel-KKR.

First,a bit of backstory.

Wiehe has been CEO of SciQuest, which launched in 1995, since 2001. He pivoted the firm from a focus on lab and scientific gear to, over time, becoming a provider of e-procurement services and helping customers better manage their spending. He took SciQuest private in 2004 but returned the company to the public markets in 2010.

The public seas have been turbulent at times.

Shares have risen substantially since that time from a $11.45 close on Oct. 1, 2010 to a high of $29.52 on Feb. 1, 2014. There have been lows, too, with shares falling as low as $9.49 last year.

(By the way, Wiehe is also one of the company’s largest shareholders, owning more than 635,000 shares as of November, 2015.)

Now, Wiehe is selling the company to Accel-KKR, a Silicon Valley-based private equity firm which raised a $1.5 billion fund last year, for more than $500 million.

In a Q&A, Wiehe discuses the deal, whether he will stay with the company, and more.

  • Why did the board/you decide to sell the company?

We believe this transaction allow us to increase our focus on long-term success that will benefit customers, employees, partners and suppliers. As a private company, we expect to continue to accelerate innovation, increase efficiency and expand our solution suite.

We are playing in a big, important, and exciting market, and AKKR can help us seize upon our opportunity through their significant experience overseeing successful technology companies.

[Note: Wiehe could not answer questions about how the sale came about and if there were other suitors, said SciQuest spokesperson Roberta Patterson. “We can’t comment on that until it is finalized and a proxy issued,” she said.]

  • You had worked to take the company public in 2010 – why take it private again?

We believe that AKKR will provide the support and independence SciQuest needs to elevate the company to an unmatched level of industry leadership in the spend management arena. Through this acquisition, we can ensure we inject true innovation into the market that provides long-term value to our partners and our end users.

  • Were there any other suitors?

SciQuest may solicit alternative acquisition proposals from third parties during a 25-day “go-shop” period, following the date of execution of the merger agreement. There is no guarantee that this process will result in a superior proposal, and the merger agreement provides AKKR with a customary right to match a superior proposal.

The Company does not intend to disclose any developments with respect to this process unless and until its Board of Directors makes a decision regarding a potential superior proposal.

  • Is it your intention to stay with the company?

Yes, [I expect to] remain the CEO and [the] executive leadership will continue as is.

  • How will becoming a private company once more help SciQuest?

This is tremendously exciting news for the future of SciQuest. As a private company, we believe we will have greater flexibility to invest in new initiatives and deliver even more value to our customers. AKKR has seen our products and understands the compelling value proposition that they provide.

We are excited to work with AKKR to help further accelerate our growth. We are playing in a big, important, and exciting market, and the folks at AKKR are going to help us seize upon this opportunity.