A podcast dedicated to the people and ideas of the Middle Market,
hosted by Andy Greenberg (GVC) and Charlie Gifford (New Heritage Capital).
This time around, Chrisanne Corbett classes up the proceedings. Chrisanne is Managing Director of KPMG Corporate Finance LLC, leading the Diversified Industrials Team, and co-leading the Private Equity Coverage Team. She starts off recalling a busy, promising childhood in Minnesota and Connecticut. Andy and Charlie – rarely interested in the same thing at the same time – both come to full alert for tales of appearing in early commercials for the gum and candy company where her father worked. Chrisanne then moves on to college at Notre Dame and a career in investment banking, including the last 24 years spent at KPMG. She recounts KPMG’s current areas of focus, from the perspective of a banker versatile enough to have industry vertical responsibilities while keeping a hand in sponsor coverage.
Jon Skinner is CEO of PSP Partners, a diversified private investment firm founded by former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. Jon is the latest financial honcho to miss his exit and end up in the Middle Market Musings recording complex with Andy and Charlie. Jon reviews his path to his current role—childhood in suburban Boston, football and undergrad at Brown, law school at Boston College, then a storied investment banking career culminating in his tenure as a vice chairman at William Blair. Jon then reviews the investment practices and culture of PSP and concludes by sharing his interests outside of work, including serving as board chair of the Honor Foundation, which is devoted to job placement for U.S. Special Ops veterans.
Andy Souder grew up in a steel town and attended Notre Dame, but the similarities to “Rudy” end there. Andy is vice president of acquisitions at RAF Equity, a family office turned private equity fund based in suburban Philadelphia. Andy regales his old friends with stories of his own upbringing and early career in commercial banking and law, then he and Andy Greenberg trade stories about Bob Fox, RAF’s remarkable founder. Discussion then turns to RAF Equity today—new leadership and focus on higher growth industries combined with traditional values and approach. Charlie rises to the challenge of two Philadelphians by talking up the last days of the Belichick era in Boston.
Bob Whalen is CEO of HB Global, a $550-million revenues commercial specialty contracting firm based in Harrisburg, PA. Bob talks about HB’s evolution since his acquisition of the business and its transition to ESOP ownership in 2008, as well as HB Capital, a private equity vehicle formed to acquire other businesses suited to similar management and ownership. Some interesting discussion on valuations prevailing in HVAC/commercial services. Bob opens with his learnings from being a competitive D-1 college wrestler and the relevance to running HB Global. Andy and Charlie show their prowess as D-1 interviewers, as usual.
Brent Baxter is several months into his tenure as Chief Executive Officer of the Association for Corporate Growth, the premier trade organization serving the M&A deal making community. Brent shares his immediate vision and priorities for serving ACG’s membership, then delves into the path that brought him to this role. Childhood in western Pennsylvania, a college-era stint as in the restaurant business that honed his people and management skills, then a business and banking career in St. Louis culminating at Nolan & Associates. Brent’s youthful experience leads to the discovery that Andy and Charlie have the same favorite Italian dish—linguini alle vongole. Who says nothing in common?
Jim Apple is partner and head of sourcing at The Sterling Group, an operationally focused private equity firm based in Houston. Jim hits the ground running with stories of a rich upbringing that included antique road shows and no TV in the house. Discussion culminates with a review of Sterling, its two current vehicles and model that includes seven drivers of value including the one Jim is responsible for—acquisitions. Before that, we hit highlights from Jim’s two earlier career stints in industrial development and investment banking. As is often the case, conversation ends up on music tastes. Jim scores with his recommendation of the Black Pumas, “an American psychedelic soul band based in Austin, Texas.”
Jim Andersen wakes up as if from a bad dream, and finds himself in conversation with Andy and Charlie. Jim is a managing partner and co-founder of Clearview Capital, a Stamford, CT based private equity fund that is often the first source of institutional capital for lower middle market owner/managers. Clearview is currently investing Fund V, an $850 million vehicle. We start off with tales from Jim’s early career experience stationed in Egypt with Schlumberger. Charlie seizes the opportunity to show off his mastery of the geography of North Africa. Jim goes on to detail Clearview’s trajectory as a fund that balances industry focus against selection of the right vehicle and management team. Conversation turns to a Middle Market Musings staple – culture. As a partner in a fund that has never had a principal team member leave, Jim brings some authority to the subject.
This time out, Rob Brown takes us inside Lincoln International LLC, one of the preeminent middle market investment banks. Rob joined Lincoln as one of its first employees in 1998, rising to become CEO in 2021. He charts his own and Lincoln’s development with great insight and good humor. Stick around for the second half, in which Rob, Andy and Charlie have an extended discussion about the “science of the pitch,” particularly as it bears on and channels the development of younger team members. The guitar on the wall in Rob’s Zoom background leads to an even more animated conversation – where each of the combatants list their top three greatest living guitarists. The responses are equal parts cringe-worthy and enlightened, depending upon your perspective.
Hollywood settles the writer’s strike, the vast creative team supporting Middle Market Musings swings back into action, and we launch our third season with a standout guest! Nishen Radia is Senior Managing Director and Co-Head of M&A at B. Riley Securities. Nishen starts off with a panoramic tour of his well-traveled boyhood, including a stint selling (and wrecking) cars at his father’s London car dealership. Andy and Charlie then delve into an M&A career highlighted by the 20-year run of FocalPoint Partners, the M&A firm founded by Nish and Duane Stullich in 2002 and the integration of that firm into B. Riley Securities in 2022. This one is packed with business insights, but still makes room for the infamous Bollywood wedding video.
Chris Burbach draws the black marble and finds himself on the podcast with Andy and Charlie. Chris is Co-founder, Partner and CEO of Fundamental Income, an institutionally backed firm that offers efficient real estate-based capital to business owners and buyers, and access to net lease real estate to investors. Chris explains when and how thinking about the monetization of real estate makes sense for a buyer in the capital structure of a contemplated transaction. Before that, Chris shares an entertaining origin story – growing up in Phoenix, getting exposed to real estate value through his parent’s charter school business and having a low ceiling on the basketball court at Santa Clara University.
Ted Kramer is the CEO of HKW, a private equity firm that traces its lineage to the early years of the 20th century. Ted not only shares an overview of his firm’s lineage, but also traces his own beginnings in northwestern Ohio and his immersion in hockey as a schoolboy, University of Michigan star, and eventually as a professional player in the early 90s. From there, the conversation evolves into Ted’s career path, which maps to the increasing centrality of the business development role in private equity fund management. Andy and Charlie relish the appearance of an old friend who makes a lot of serious points but also joins in their often pointless, competitive, digressive repartee.
Devin Mathews wanders out onto the Middle Market Musings stage and the audience goes wild at the cross-platform possibilities. Devin is co-founder of ParkerGale, a Chicago-based private equity fund focused on profitable technology investments, and co-originator of their successful podcast devoted to companies in the tech space. Devin entertains with his account of how an art history major from SUNY Binghamton found his way to the upper reaches of private equity. He assesses the current state of the market and shares best practices on producing an industry focused podcast, something that both Andy and Charlie believe the other desperately needs.
Andy and Charlie put on a video extravaganza at the AssocIation for Corporate Growth’s recent DealMAX conference in Las Vegas. Three industry luminaries! Each segment includes that guest’s insights on challenges in the current market, memories of past conferences and relationships in the deal making community and a round of a new time-wasting game called “Charlie or Andy.” The hosts are grateful to ACG for hosting us.
Episode 35A, Bruce Fenton, Troutman Pepper
Episode 35B, Michelle Eidson, Crest Rock Partners
Episode 35C, Parker Weil, TD Cowen
Andy and Charlie set their sights on David Welinsky, a young star in the private credit industry. (Young = younger than Charlie.) David is a managing director in capital markets at Monroe Capital, widely regarded as a premier boutique asset management firm specializing in direct lending amongst other strategies. David talks about his upbringing, Monroe’s nearly 20 year evolution to a diversified asset manager, and the state of middle market private finance today versus a year ago.
Not unlike the guy who drives through the carwash with his top down, Jay Weinstein gets the full Middle Market Musings treatment from the co-hosts. Jay is Vice Chair of Industries and Markets at the EisnerAmper accounting, tax and business advisory firm. Jay has seen all sides of the M&A business – from running accounting firms that merged into progressively larger practices, to overseeing acquisitions for EisnerAmper, to being involved in EA’s 2021 recapitalization by TowerBrook Capital Partners. A common theme is how to build and capture value in a complex professional services firm. Jay shares all – and is able to give (potshots) as well as he gets.
Gretchen Perkins inexplicably agrees to spend an hour with Andy and Charlie. Gretchen, partner at Avance Investment Management, is one of the best known and widely respected figures in the world of private equity business origination. Gretchen shares the story of Avance, a two-year-old equity fund differentiating itself through investments in rapidly scalable business models in the consumer and technology industries. She and the guys trace the evolution of the deal sourcing discipline over the past 20 years and compare notes on what distinguishes the standout practitioners. We wind up with Gretchen sharing thoughts on a life after private equity, involving dogs and yoga (or is it dog yoga?). A fun, informative, and fast-paced outing.
Charles K. Gifford is Chairman Emeritus of Bank of America. Son Charlie and co-host Andy are on best behavior with a guest who would be an incredible “get” under any circumstances. Chad stops by to provide valuable perspective on the current tempests swirling around the global banking system. As CEO of the Bank of Boston, Chad had a front row seat for the New England banking crisis of the early 90s. Following successive mergers, he rose to become Chairman of Bank of America, serving on that board during the 2009 financial crisis. His observations on the SVB failure and successive events are anchored in these experiences and 50 years of executive leadership. Is there time for trademark Middle Market Musings folderol? Of course there is! A drily humorous Gifford just what the podcast needed.
Andrea Auerbach of Cambridge Associates stops by Middle Market Musings to offer a master class in the trends defining the private equity asset class. Cambridge Associates is a leading advisor/portfolio manager to institutional investors. Andrea oversees a team directing $12-15 billion per year to private investments, co-investments, and secondary opportunities. She shares how different GPs manage to different valuation expectations, the emergence of direct and co-investing, and the advent of greater specialization, not just in industry verticals but in functional areas of expertise. She holds her own with the guys in making vintage cultural references, including a callback to Mutual of Omaha’s Animal Kingdom. Forget all the other times Andy and Charlie touted a guest. Andrea delivers the goods!
Matt Carroll helps Andy and Charlie prove that Middle Market Musings is exactly as mature and insightful in 2023 as it was in 2022. Matt is a managing partner at WestView Capital Partners, a Boston-based private equity firm that recently closed on its $1 billion fifth fund. Matt has been a part of WestView since its inception in 2004. He charts the firm’s evolution into more intense pockets of industry focus while maintaining its stronghold as a leading investor of non-controlling equity. Matt ignites the discussion with his many passions—Boston College, family and helping younger people make their way in our business. He and Charlie swap Boston sports stories while Andy maintains a polite frozen smile.
LA-based investment banking luminary Ed Bagdasarian misses the Slauson Cutoff and finds himself in the middle of an episode of Middle Market Musings. Ed is CEO of Intrepid Investment Bankers LLC, now part of MUFG. Ed begins with an extraordinary family story—he is of Armenian heritage, born in Romania, brought to the United States by his parents as a young teen. The family jewelry business provided identity and an introduction to the entrepreneurial life. Ed traces his own investment banking career and then—with his partners Jim Freedman and Mike Rosenberg—the development and sale of two successful investment banks. The guys have an interesting discussion about choosing sectors versus building sectoral strength around strong bankers.
Rusty Goodsell, CEO and Co-Founder of New Orchard LLC, joins us for a podcast all about culture—or as they say in Boston, “cultcha.” (Charlie doesn’t say that—other Bostonians). New Orchard is an analytics company that helps business buyers and other clients more quickly assess organizational culture as part of their operational/ investment decisions. New Orchard’s approach to “quality of organization” echoes the “quality of earnings” model that has become so prevalent over the past 15 years. This gives Andy and Charlie an opportunity to talk about the overriding importance of the human factor in business enterprises—an ironic topic given the chronically frosty and combative tone of Middle Market Musings.
Pete Stavros is a Partner & Co-Head of Americas Private Equity at KKR, as well as founder/chairman of Ownership Works, a nonprofit organization that partners with companies and investors to provide employees with the opportunity to build wealth at work. Pete and the guys discuss the role of global investment firms like KKR versus middle-market PE groups, the personal and business experiences that led to the formation of Ownership Works and the activities of that organization. Also how PE firms and individual businesses address fundamental social questions of wealth formation, equity and empowerment. So engrossing, Andy and Charlie forget to make fun of one another, a first for MMM.
Parker Weil is vice chair of investment banking at Cowen. He provides a lively excursion through three decades in the most successful echelons of M&A, beginning with his tenure as a junior banker during the “Liar’s Poker” era at Salomon. Parker views industry trends leading to his current role as vice chair and head of the group that encompasses sponsor coverage at Cowen. Andy and Charlie get his perspective on transaction activity involving investment banks, drawing on Cowen’s multiple and the announced sale of Cowen itself to TD Bank. One highlight: What is the threshold for meaningful enterprise value in an M&A firm?
Jeffrey Stevenson finds himself on the wrong side of town and becomes Charlie and Andy’s latest accomplice. Jeffrey is Managing Partner of VSS Capital Partners, a private investment firm that manages $4 billion in committed capital across eight funds. He recounts VSS’s early days as an M&A firm devoted to publishing/media, then the transitions into principal investing and an industry focus broadened to include information, business services, healthcare and education. An early highlight: Jeffrey talks about representing Walter Annenberg in TV Guide’s sale to Rupert Murdoch. Younger listeners can google Annenberg—and TV Guide.
Tom Bohn, President and CEO of the Association for Corporate Growth, kicks off the fall season on Middle Market Musings. Tom discusses the state of mergers & acquisitions coming out of covid, his plans for the M&A industry’s largest trade association, and the business orientation he’s brought to trade group management. Most important, he engages in the forced, faux hip repartee that MMM listeners have learned to dread. Stay tuned to the end when Tom, Andy and Charlie pick the albums they would bring to a desert island. Can you match the man with the Beach Boys, the Grateful Dead and Journey?
Tarrus Richardson takes Middle Market Musings on a panoramic tour of the deal-making life. Tarrus is Founder and CEO of IMB Partners, a Bethesda, MD private equity fund targeting utilities and government contracting suppliers. Andy and Charlie ride along as Tarrus starts with stories about growing up in a family business in Chicago. Other stops before forming IMB in 2010: student leadership roles at Purdue and Harvard Business School, an investment fund in Ghana and a formative role at a private equity fund that counted competitive strategy legend Michael Porter among its sponsors. Common themes are the drive to compete, build value and broaden economic participation.
As co-founder of the Harris Williams investment bank, Chris Williams is one of the best known figures in private company M&A. Chris’s storied career hits the wall that is Middle Market Musings. He regales Charlie and Andy with tales from his early career, then moves on to Harris Williams’ path to being an industry standard bearer. We also cover Chris’s evolution into private equity investor and his current activities as a founding partner at Avesi Partners, a PE fund geared to health care and business services. Business culture as inseparable from business excellence is a recurrent theme.
The Private Markets Club is a group of University Delaware business students devoted to learning more about and engaging in the world of private finance. In a lapse of good judgment, the PMC invited Andy and Charlie to come in as guests. The MMM hosts quiz one another about their own origin stories, then field sharp, informed questions from Keaton Stott, Will Wallace and the rest of the club. Thought provoking, heartfelt and fun—the up and coming rock stars make the old guys work for it.
Jeri Harman gives Andy and Charlie a lesson in “emotional intelligence”—like building a swimming pool in the desert. Jeri is Founder and Chairman of Avante Capital Partners, a woman- and minority-owned private credit and structured equity fund. The discussion is a fast-paced tour of Jeri’s early career, the impetus to create her own fund and the importance of culture in harnessing individual “super powers.” We then turn to the concept of investing for impact while maintaining superior returns and how 2022 compares to other markets defined by systemic risk. If this one was a course at Pinehurst, it would be #2.
Bill Tyson is Managing Director and Head of Mergers & Acquisitions at Fifth Third Bank. During our wide ranging discussion, Bill shares stories amassed from a 37 year career spanning his time as an M&A banker, a commercial lender, and a Capital Markets specialist. He discusses the importance of culture, and how personal relationships and building trust among his co-workers has been paramount to building a winning team. Time is also spent exploring doing deals in the time of Covid, and the tradeoffs of working remotely vs. in the office.
Bruce Fenton takes on Andy and Charlie in a cage match for the ages! Bruce, the head of private equity at Troutman Pepper, traces his path to becoming a preeminent M&A attorney, assesses the professional landscape as represented by the combination of two storied law firms and gives his views on changes in the balance of power among actors competing for the attention of the private business owner. If you enjoy MMM’s trademark repartee, this one is like a mullet – a few minutes of party in front, all business in the back!
Jon Lemelman, Riverside Partners and Classify. After nearly 20 years at Boston-based Riverside, Jon has co-founded Classify, a software application devoted to creating a smarter, stress-free digital workplace. Jon share’s his perspective on deal making at Riverside, a firm at the vanguard of private equity’s evolution to industry specialization. He talks about the experiences that led to Classify, and the change in perspective involved in capital formation and business management after so many years on the other side of the table.
Eugene Fama is the 2013 Nobel laureate in economic sciences, widely recognized as the “father of modern finance.” Professor Fama finds himself in the wrong part of town and ends up on a podcast with Andy and Charlie. Gene Fama is direct, funny, and generous in sharing insights on the evolution of financial markets dating back to his revolutionary efficient market hypothesis, the development of private equity as an asset class alongside of public equity, and a battery of current issues like inflation and cryptocurrency. How good is he? The MMM co-hosts are stunned into good behavior.
Joe Conte is the Head of Strategy and Corporate Development at Standish Management, a leading fund administrator. Joe was long a fixture in middle market M&A as a managing director at Lazard before taking a senior role at Standish last year. Joe traces the evolution of the field from his early career stops as an attorney and as a young banker at Goldsmith Agio Helms. He also reflects on his recent transition from buy side to sell side and, with prodding from Charlie, shares his personal diet and fitness regimen.
Jay Jester, partner at Plexus Capital, is the latest M&A luminary to spend an hour he’ll never get back with Andy and Charlie. Jay is well known as a leader in private equity’s evolution to more granular, industry-focused, relationship-based business development. He shares insights drawn from his prior experience at Audax Capital and his current focus at Plexus. Always a student of the industry, Jay chronicles the “four waves” of private equity as he has seen them.
Eric Zoller is the Founder and current Partner of Sixpoint Partners, one of the largest fund placement advisors serving the middle market private equity industry. Eric traces Sixpoint’s development as an early entrant in the industry through the company’s 2019 sale to PNC Bank. Charlie, Andy, Eric have a spirited discussion about core, non-outsourceable functions in a superior private equity firm – a list once thought to include fund placement. Eric also provides his well thought out view of the evolution of private equity over the next decade.
Lauren Mulholland, Founding Partner of MiddleGround Capital, burns off an hour with Charlie and Andy. MiddleGround is an operationally focused private equity fund with more than $1.2 billion in assets under management. Lauren illuminates her own background in a business family, MiddleGround’s rapid growth since its formation in 2018, the actual differentiation that comes from an operational focus, and the importance of the firm’s commitment to principles of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Globalization (DEIG).
Sean Mooney, Founder and CEO of BluWave, stops by. BluWave is a fast-growing provider of best-in-class resources to more than 500 private equity funds. Andy and Charlie drill into how BluWave evolved from Sean’s own background in private equity, the particulars of the business model, and what the business itself says about signature trends in private equity—higher valuations, compressed returns, greater industry specialization and heightened pressure to capture growth and operational improvement. All that, plus the usual Masterpiece Theater-level back-and-forth between the two hosts.
David McIntyre, former CEO of Centra Industries, kicks off our fall season. Centra, now part of Precision Castparts Corp, is a Canadian manufacturer of airframe components. Dave tells the Centra story, with high points including his acquisition of the business from his father in 2004, an equity investment from New Heritage Capital in 2007 and a successful exit to PCC in 2012. Today he races fast cars at Ontario’s famed Motorsport Speedway and possesses a world class wit—as evidenced by the first few minutes of our conversation.
Glenn Oken, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Mangrove Equity Partners, and one of the most productive middle market deal professionals of this generation. He and his partners have completed 150 platform acquisitions across nine fund vehicles. He discusses Mangrove's intensely operational approach, the merits of concentrating on the $2-to-8 million EBITDA tier of the market, and his recent fondness for Spanish reds.
Graeme Frazier is the co-founder of GF Data, the leading provider of data on private middle market M&A transactions, as well as President of Private Capital Research, a provider of buy-side business development services. Graeme shares his unique views as a practitioner and analyst in the middle market. He brings his trademark patience to encounters with two old friends.
Tom Danis, Jr., Managing Partner and co-founder of RCP Advisors, is the latest industry titan to stop by. Tom charts RCP’s path as a pioneer in “fund of funds” investing. He comments on changes in return expectations over the past 20 years, including increased emphasis on the select group of PE funds able to sustain top performance. He shares his take on the competitive world of direct investment. He responds to a characteristically long-winded question from Andy, while ignoring characteristically unhelpful commentary from Charlie.
Pam Hendrickson, vice chair of The Riverside Company. Pam charts Riverside’s evolution from middle-market buyout shop to $11 billion global multi-style asset manager—including the productive dynamic that enabled Riverside to complete 60 transactions during the pandemic. The guys quiz her on her industry leadership role, including her understanding of ESG investing as a dimension of political risk management. Finally, Pam shares insights from her on the difference between private equity investing and her passion outside of work—cooking.
Phil Colaco, CEO of Deloitte Corporate Finance, takes his turn in the hot seat. Phil shares his perspectives on entrepreneurship and how technology has infiltrated almost every industry, and how working for luminaries like Hugh McColl and Erskine Bowles shaped his career. He also talks about the importance of developing a culture of inclusion as well as his philanthropic passions. Charlie and Andy compete to show that they are well-rounded people, too.
Joe Watkins has been a business owner, investor and observer in the flavors & fragrances industry for 40 years. He was co-owner of Hagelin Flavors Technologies prior to its sale to a European strategic buyer. Joe shares his perspectives on the challenges—and eventual rewards—of operating a successful business. The guys draw out Tales from a storied and well-traveled career.
Peter Kaufman, the President of Gordian Group, a New York-based distressed M&A firm. Peter shares his views on the current state of the restructuring market and on what makes special situations bankers a different breed. He discusses his passion for and investments in the wine industry, and his fledgling career as a golf journalist. He jumps in with the guys as a world-class giver of grief.
Michele Masucci, a leader in Nixon Peabody’s healthcare practice. Michelle shares what it was like to live and work with front-line care providers in New York the early days of the pandemic, and offers insights on the healthcare industry in its aftermath. She defends her college classmate Andy against outrageous assaults from Charlie.