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Chernikeeff boss lands £100 million in share sale

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Networking company Chernikeeff has made its 62-year-old owner one of the UK's wealthiest IT magnates. Peter Harrison bought the privately owned PC network integration business for £133,000 in 1979. He has sold 49.9 per cent of Chernikeeff to quoted South African outfit Dimension Data Holdings, valuing the company at £200 million. Harrison retains 50.1 per cent of Chernikeeff, valuing his own stake at over £100 million. The entrepeneur has invested £11.25 million of this cash in Dimension Data, where he has become a director. Middlesex-based Chernikeeff, set up in the 20s by Russian emigre Captain Chernikeeff, moved into data handling in the 70s. A decade later it moved into networking, and in 1998 introduced Cisco products into Britain. Other suppliers include WAN and LAN manufacturer Ascend, Compact Data -– which makes a data compression product for use with WAN links -- FORE Systems, Network Appliance, hubs and routers manufacturer ODS, and Xyplex. Harrison, 62, said the deal would allow the company to expand overseas. Dimension Data has 38 per cent of the South African market, as well as investments in Asia and Australia. "I could have carried on and continued to grow the company on an independent basis, but I could not see how I could have put in the investment of things such as facilities management. "The main driver behind this deal was the awareness that the product and the services are not restricted to national boundaries," he told yesterday's Sunday Times. Harrison, who is chairman of the old Reigatian rugby club development committee and a VP of Chelsea FC, admitted that increased competition in the market also lay behind the sale. "We see the market continuing to grow very strongly," he said. "However, there are more companies out there now." Chernikeeff has 170 staff, with offices in Oldham and Scotland. Last year's turnover was over £56 million. Harrison said it had been a tough decision to relinquish his independence in the company. "It was a big strugggle between heart and head -- my heart did not want to give up my independence." ®

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