Korn/Ferry said to be close to buying Whitehead Mann

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According to our sources, things are afoot at Whitehead Mann. The high-end UK-based headhunter is said to have sent an email to some of its staff this morning informing them that it is the final stages of being sold to Korn/Ferry International.

If true, it will mark the end of a testing time for the UK firm. After a rip roaring expansion at the turn of the millennium, including the acquisition of financial services boutique Baines Gwinner, Whitehead Mann struggled in the 2003 downturn. Founder Anna Mann left, and chief exec Stephen Lawrence was axed following a shock profit warning.

In 2006, hedge fund Och Ziff funded a 26m management buy-in led by Whitehead Mann Chairman Jonathan Baines, board director Carol Leonard, and Piers Marmion, the former head of Heidrick & Struggles.

However, Leonard left earlier this year, and Whitehead Mann has reportedly trimmed at least 10% of its staff since January.

Korn/Ferry's potential purchase is said to have been triggered by Och Ziff's decision to try and sell its stake. The move could leave the combined entity looking overstaffed - Korn/Ferry also hired the UK team from Whitney Group earlier this year and has just recruited two senior consultants in Asia, where Whitehead Mann also has a presence.

Whitehead Mann was not immediately available for comment.

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