TSD Merger: TDM Merges Datatel with Clarus, Eyes a 'Safe Haven' for Partners

TDM CEO Robert Bowling said he wants to preserve the lifestyle element of the channel amid private equity investment.

James Anderson, Senior News Editor

April 11, 2023

9 Slides

California-based tech services distributor Datatel Solutions is joining the Telecom Decision Makers (TDM) family and merging with Clarus Communications.

The parties did not reveal the financial terms of the deal or the size of the combined company. They said the merger brings together two likeminded groups that did not want to join forces with a private equity investors. Their combined skills will help Datatel’s partner base move up-market with customers and expand and diversify Clarus’ partner base.


Clarus’ Chris Torbit

TDM in 2021 bought with Clarus and WheelHouse Solutions. The latter two merged into the TDM family but remained standalone businesses. TDM functions as the customer-facing technology advisor (agent) business, Clarus is the technology services distributor (TSD) with a back office to support a vendor portfolio, and WheelHouse fills the role of midmarket and enterprise-focused MSP.

Keep up with the latest channel-impacting mergers and acquisitions in our M&A roundup.

Datatel will roll up under the Clarus brand, but its agents will leverage support from TDM in selling to larger customers. Datatel’s partners, many of which are MSPs, will also turn to WheelHouse for installation and managed services with larger customers.

On the other hand, Datatel gives Kentucky-based Clarus and TDM a presence on the West Coast. Datatel also represents a source of net-new partners through the base of MSPs/VARs it has cultivated since its founding in 2003.

“Our agent program has always been a cornerstone to our company,” Clarus principal Chris Torbit said. “The addition of Datatel agents is validation of our commitment to the program and, more importantly, our agents’ success.”

The transaction brings together two members of the Technology Solutions Exchange (TSX). The TSX helps regional TSDs pool their bargaining power with providers and share best practices.

Providing a ‘Safe Haven’

The transaction occurs as consolidation sweeps across the TSD landscape. The number of TSDs describing themselves national players has shrunk rapidly in the last two years, with Telarus, AppDirect and Avant purchasing companies. Much of the consolidation has occurred with the investment of private equity companies.


Clarus/Datatel’s Jeffery Ponts

The latest Channel Futures agent quarterly survey saw partner confidence in the channel drop, with many citing industry consolidation as a trend that worried them.

TDM founder and CEO Robert Bowling, and Datatel co-founder and chief operating officer Jeffery Ponts in an interview with Channel Futures said they see private equity creating an emphasis on return-on-investment. That emphasis has diminished the “lifestyle” element of the channel that many partners love, they said. But Clarus could function as an alternative to partners that don’t want to place their business with private equity.


TDM’s Robert Bowling

“Without private equity and without anybody that we have to please down the road, I think we’re going to be that safe haven,” Ponts told Channel Futures.

Ponts and Bowling both received recognition from Channel Futures as Top Distribution Leaders for 2022.

Read more of their conversation in the slideshow above.

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About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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