Private equity firm buys Clifton internet security company

Clifton’s Comodo Certificate Authority has been acquired by a technology-focused private equity firm in California.

Francisco Partners will help support Comodo’s accelerated growth, fueled by an increased need for the protection of digital information, network traffic encryption and demand for enhanced trust in websites. Financial terms of the deal were not announced.

“Comodo has long been a valued, trusted and innovative leader in the digital certificate space,” said Francisco Partners founding partner and CEO Dipanjan Deb. “This is demonstrated by 15 years of consecutive growth that was only made possible by leadership and product teams that keenly understand the market and their customers. We’re truly excited to welcome Comodo CA to the Francisco Partners family.”

Comodo CA’s SSL certificates protects more than 200,000 customers worldwide.

SSL, or secure sockets layer, certificates ensure that the online traffic between a website and a user is encrypted and that the website’s identity is verified as authentic.

“The growth of online services, along with the associated security risks, have made SSL certificates an entrenched and critical piece of most organizations’ security framework,” said Garrett Bekker, principal security analyst at 451 Research. “However, the ongoing adoption of cloud and mobile computing, and most recently the Internet of Things (IoT) devices, has led to an exponential increase in the number and variety of devices that are at risk and need to be secured. As such, the market for digital certificates and certificate management services will likely benefit from continued strong growth for the foreseeable future.”

Comodo CA hired Bill Holtz as CEO as part of the transaction.

Holtz has more than 30 years of experience in the internet and security industries.

“The alignment of the Comodo CA acquisition with the current market demand for trusted certificates and certificate lifecycle management signals a monumental opportunity for all parties,” Holtz said. “The need to responsibly provide the required verification, oversight and operational management to encrypt network traffic and identify websites will only grow. Trusted digital certificates will remain a fundamental requirement of today’s network security infrastructure for e-commerce and new evolving IoT networks. Francisco Partners has a sound, smart and aggressive strategy for Comodo CA, and I’m delighted to join the team to execute their vision.”

Bill Conner will serve as chairman of the board of directors, and brings more than 30 years of experience in the networking and security industries.

“This is a fantastic acquisition that represents a strong blend of technology, innovation and execution,” said Conner. “With the oversight of Francisco Partners, and Bill Holtz at the helm, Comodo CA will continue to be agile and proactive in helping strengthen trust across web security and communication.”

The investment by Francisco Partners marks a transition in ownership from the Comodo organization, founded in 1998. Melih Abdulhayoglu, who is also a founding member of the CA/Browser Forum, will retain an ownership stake and remain a board observer of Comodo CA.

“Comodo CA was the first business of the Comodo brand, which has since then expanded into many other areas of security,” Abdulhayoglu said. “However, now is the time to focus attention on the CA business, given the significant opportunity in the market. This next chapter for both Comodo CA and Francisco Partners will positively impact the digital certificate market and accelerate the company’s business objectives.”