Affina Benefits From CRM Positioning

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Affina -- The Customer Relationship Co. said Monday it underwent a recapitalization that will give it more flexibility for growth and reduce its debt burden.

The privately owned company will have up to $90 million available in a combined package of equity, senior debt and subordinated debt. Several banks provided about $30 million in debt availability while Whiten & Co., Stamford, CT, and Parthenon Capital, Boston, provided $60 million in equity.

The recapitalization is one of several recent indications that investors view call center operators as playing central roles in the new economy and as providers of customer relationship management.

Other call center operators that have been capturing investor interest include West Teleservices and RMH Teleservices. The companies have been evolving from telemarketing companies into more well-rounded teleservices providers.

Affina, however, has always been a provider of inbound services. Formerly known as Ruppman Marketing Technologies, the company operates seven call centers serving clients in consumer electronics, office automation, packaged goods, government, healthcare, utilities, telecommunications and other industries.

The private equity firms, along with Northwestern Mutual, will own 44 percent of Affina on a fully diluted basis, according to Ted Lueken, chief financial officer at Affina, Peoria, IL. The remaining 56 percent remains in the control of existing management and the founder, Charles Ruppman, chairman of Affina.

"It gives us room to invest in new technologies and for the expansion of additional call centers because our business is growing very quickly," Lueken said. "It also provides us with a structure to be able to go out and do acquisitions ... in the CRM and call center space as we continue to grow."

The company made two acquisitions in 1998 and opened two call centers in 1999, one in St. Louis and the other in Montreal.

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