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30 Mar 2021

Stephanie Kirchgaessner, The Guardian

Financiers behind NSO Group in struggle for control of private equity firm

The company had been the focus of scrutiny for years – a seller of controversial surveillance equipment coveted by governments across the world. So when three financiers behind a private equity fund led the acquisition of NSO Group in 2019, they promised to do “whatever is necessary” to ensure the company’s technology would not be used to abuse human rights.

The trio pledged that their London-based firm, Novalpina Capital, would establish “a new model for public transparency”, an ambition they described as “wholly without precedent within the cybersecurity industry”.

Two years later, the business partners are locked in a behind-the-scenes power struggle that has been largely concealed from public view.

The exact nature of the conflict is unclear, but it has been described as a “struggle for control” of the private equity group. And it may have significant implications for Novalpina Capital fund investments, including NSO Group, whose technology has allegedly been used by repressive regimes to target human rights activists, political opponents and journalists.

The Guardian understands that Novalpina Capital’s boardroom rift has resulted in the suspension of the shareholder voting rights of Stephen Peel...