Tony Hayward Firm Bags Oil Recruiter

An investment firm advised by Tony Hayward, the former BP chief executive, is poised to buy one of Britain's largest specialist oil and gas industry recruiters in a £235m deal.

I have learned that AEA Investors is in exclusive talks to acquire NES Global Talent, which has been put up for sale on the back of growing demand for specialist engineering staff in sectors such as oil and gas, rail and power.

AEA, which appointed Mr Hayward as an adviser following his departure from BP in 2010, is understood to have been given a small window to close a deal by Graphite Capital, NES's current owner.

If a deal is not agreed between the two sides, other bidders will be allowed to re-enter discussions.

Mr Hayward's connection to the auction is intriguing because one of the other bidders for NES is Pamplona Capital Management, a rival private equity firm backed by Mikhail Fridman, a Russian businessman.

Mr Fridman is one of the oligarchs who crossed swords with Mr Hayward over BP's joint venture in Russia, TNK-BP. The British company's 50% stake is being auctioned, with Mr Fridman's consortium one of two credible bidders.

The other bidders for NES, which include Bridgepoint, the company's former owner, are understood to have been outbid by AEA by more than £10m.

Mr Hayward quit BP in the summer of 2010 following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, about which BP is in detailed negotiations with the US government to reach a financial settlement.

RW Baird, the investment bank handling the NES sale, did not return calls seeking comment.