ACG M&A All-Stars 2022

The Association for Corporate Growth Detroit Chapter and DBusiness magazine honor the 7th annual winners.
Photographs by Brad Ziegler
Photographs by Brad Ziegler

DBusiness magazine partnered with the Association for Corporate Growth Detroit Chapter to honor its recipients of the seventh annual M&A All-Star Awards for 2021 activity. Winners were recognized during an event at the Townsend Hotel in downtown Birmingham on May 3 at 6 p.m.

// Dealmaker of the Year // Deal of the Year Over $50M // Deal of the Year Under $50M // // Rising Star // Adviser of the Year // Investment Banker of the Year //
// Lifetime Achievement Award //

Dealmaker of the Year

Huron Capital • Detroit
Jim Mahoney • Managing Partner

Jim Mahoney, Heather Madland leaning against a light pole
Jim Mahoney, Heather Madland

Why Huron Capital is the ACG Dealmaker of the Year

Pent-up demand caused by COVID-19 and more efficient communication tools helped lead to a record year for Huron Capital, a middle-market private equity platform in Detroit. “Our team was firing on all cylinders last year,” says Jim Mahoney, managing partner of Huron Capital. “Coming into 2021, we’d planted a lot of seeds that began to bear fruit.”

Consider the records the company set in 2021, with 41 total transactions that included 27 add-on acquisitions, the sale of eight platform businesses, and the purchase or creation of six new platforms. The performance came as Mahoney was appointed managing partner in February 2021 and Huron Capital evolved its investment strategy to focus more narrowly on 10 specific niches across three key services sectors: commercial and industrial services, professional services, and consumer services.

The results can be seen through the prism of the rapid growth experienced by three portfolio companies in the commercial and industrial services sector. Pueblo Mechanical and Control saw four add-on acquisitions that led to an expansion into Texas and Utah; Sciens Building Solutions was sold in December to funds managed by Carlyle, a global investment firm, after completing 13 acquisitions in five years (five of which were in 2021); and Albireo Energy has completed 24 deals since 2014.

“One of the keys to our success was going through the process to make sure we had the right focus by all parties involved, given the sheer volume of marketplace activity,” says Mahoney, who oversees a team of 24 employees. “We were very balanced in terms of exits, acquisitions, and our overall portfolio, and all three legs of the stool were moving in the right direction.”

At a time when overall market activity was robust, Mahoney notes it was a challenge to find legal and financial advisers with the capacity to handle multiple deals. Locally, Huron Capital works with Detroit-based Honigman for primary legal counsel and Plante Moran, with offices in Detroit and Southfield, for audit and tax services.

Since joining Huron Capital in 2007, Mahoney has led numerous successful investments and has served on the board of more than a dozen portfolio companies. In addition to managing day-to-day operations, he led several successful deals, was a key member of the investment committee, and now serves on Huron Capital’s board.

“There’s still a lot of private equity out there chasing deals, and our (overall) portfolio remains strong,” Mahoney says. “Following the first quarter, we’re dealing with inflation and supply chain issues, but our top line demand continues to be robust.”

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Deal of the Year Over $50M

Wolverine Worldwide Inc. • Rockford
Brendan Hoffman • President and CEO
Jim Zwiers • President, Global Operations Group

Clockwise from upper left: Kyle Hanson, Amy Klimek, Jim Zwiers, Mike Stornant, Brendan Hoffman, Blake Krueger
Clockwise from upper left: Kyle Hanson, Amy Klimek, Jim Zwiers, Mike Stornant, Brendan Hoffman, Blake Krueger

Why Wolverine Worldwide is the ACG Deal of the Year Over $50M

The board at Wolverine Worldwide Inc. in Rockford was looking to explore further strategic acquisitions to complement its footwear and apparel offerings when it hired Brendan Hoffman as president in 2020. A year later, Hoffman took on the added title of CEO, succeeding Blake Krueger, who was named executive chairman.

When he was CEO of Wolverine Worldwide, Krueger transformed the company’s lifestyle and footwear portfolio by adding such strategic acquisitions as Merrell, Saucony, Sperry, Stride Rite, Keds, and Chaco. Krueger also led annual revenue growth to almost $2 billion, which translated into a significant expansion of the company’s market capitalization.

“When I was recruited, there was an appetite by the board to get back into strategic acquisitions. Jim (Zwiers), myself, and our entire team began looking for opportunities that broadened our skill set beyond traditional footwear, and when we came across Sweaty Betty, it checked off a lot of boxes for us,” Hoffman says.

Consummated last August, Wolverine’s all-cash, $410-million acquisition of London-based Sweaty Betty came about through a highly competitive auction set up by seller L. Catterton, a brand-focused private equity fund. In 2021, Sweaty Betty had revenue of $250 million, 650 employees, and more than 60 stores.

By comparison, Wolverine had 2021 sales of $2.4 billion, 4,500 workers, and sold its products in 170 countries. Key retail outlets include Nordstrom, Macy’s, Amazon, Zappos, and DSW. To grow through acquisition, Hoffman and Zwiers looked for companies with strong consumer brands, a robust e-commerce platform, and a focus on women’s activewear apparel.

In a race against the clock, due to the way the auction process was set, the entire transaction was closed three weeks after Wolverine was selected as the winning bidder. “It was a highly competitive environment,” Zwiers says. “There were still travel restrictions in place, but our key banker had offices in London, while our legal team, Honigman in Detroit, had a global reach. Having that kind of experience allowed our overall team to move very quickly.” 

Another aspect of the deal, which included such outside advisers as Baker and McKenzie and E&Y, is that Wolverine Worldwide has the opportunity to leverage the Sweaty Betty brand into new markets beyond Europe, including the United States and Asia. Women’s active and performance-wear apparel is a growing category for fitness and style.

“The growing number of women who work from home (since the outbreak of COVID-19) also played a role in the deal,” Hoffman says. “Sweaty Betty is led by Julia Strauss (CEO), and she has a terrific senior leadership team. It was important to us that the company was founded and led by a woman.” 

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Deal of the Year Under $50M

PM Environmental • Lansing
Peter Bosanic • Co-founder
Michael T. Kulka • CEO 

Peter Bosanic, Michael T. Kulka sitting at a boardroom table facing the camera
Peter Bosanic, Michael T. Kulka

Why KCM Environmental’s acquisition of PM Environmental is the ACG Deal of the Year Under $50M

For several years, Michael T. Kulka and Peter Bosanic, co-founders and principal engineers of PM Environmental in Lansing, were seeking to establish a leading environmental risk management firm in the United States and Canada. Since the company’s founding in 1992, the two partners have sought to expand nationwide, and over time they established more than two dozen offices.

In some cases, though, the expansion effort proved to be too much, with a number of new offices adding to revenue growth but contributing little in the way of profits. Kulka and Bosanic decided to pull back and focus on being a regional market leader with 12 offices in Michigan and the southeastern U.S. At the same time, they searched for a strategic partner to realize their goal of servicing clients domestically and across Canada.

We’d been looking at one opportunity, but due to the complexities and changing market dynamics in the early days of COVID-19, we passed on the deal,” says Kulka, CEO of PM Environmental. “We kept looking for the right partner, and in the process of negotiating with Keystone Capital Management, the lead attorney passed away in the middle of the transaction. Fortunately, we had a great team in place.”

Working with Foster and Swift (legal team), PSMJ Resources (investment banker), and Clayton and McKervey (accounting), PM Environmental partnered with Keystone Capital Management, or KCM Environmental, in December. A few weeks later, in February, Pinchin Ltd. in Ontario came into the fold and now the expanded enterprise has access to 1,000 employees among 46 office locations in North America.

“The best thing we did was to be patient,” Bosanic says. “We had looked at a dozen potential buyers, and we met with strategic buyers and PE firms, and we finally got down to what we felt was the right partner. It was like speed dating. Now that we’re part of a bigger company, we’ve positioned ourselves for additional targeted acquisitions in the U.S. and Canada.”

Among the services the combined entity offers are environmental site assessments, brownfield redevelopment, environmental compliance audits, industrial hygiene services, and underground storage tank management.

“With this partnership, we see a significant opportunity to better serve our clients through greater geographic reach and a broader set of capabilities,” Kulka says. “We evaluated the DNA of each bid, and one thing we learned is don’t necessarily go with the highest bidder. Had we done that, we wouldn’t have met our goal of establishing a top brand in our space across the U.S. and Canada.” 

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Rising Star

Justin Hanna • Associate
Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer, and Weiss • Southfield

Justin Hanna leaning on a chair in a boardroom
Justin Hanna

Why Justin Hanna is the ACG Rising Star

In a remarkable year for deals, one week stood out as especially noteworthy for Justin Hanna, an associate and part of the M&A practice group at Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer, and Weiss in Southfield. From Nov. 1-8, Hanna helped close four transactions — a $40 million buy-side, new platform deal; a $100 million sell-side deal; a $60 million add-on acquisition; and a separate $16 million add-on acquisition.

“If that wasn’t enough, my wife and I bought a house last year and we had our second child, so we have two kids under 2 years old. Some of the deals were highly complex and involved representation and warranty insurance policies (RWI), which required more due diligence,” Hanna says. “Over that week in November, I remember I had a cold and worked through two weekends to get everything done.”

Hanna joined Jaffe Raitt five years ago, and says each year has been busier than the previous one. In 2018, he assisted in closing 10 transactions collectively worth more than $300 million, while in 2019 he helped conclude a half-dozen deals with an aggregate consideration of $2 billion, followed by closing 11 deals in 2020.

But that pales to his performance in 2021, when he helped close 20 deals — five of which were new private equity “fundless” sponsor platforms, where equity and debt financing are coordinated on a deal-by-deal basis. He was the lead attorney on eight of those transactions, responsible for negotiating, drafting, and managing the overall deal process. Of the 20 transactions, all but one was a buy-side deal, and eight involved RWI. All told, the transaction activity in 2021 represented more than $550 million in aggregate consideration. Apart from an intense week in November, Hanna closed a couple of platform deals for two private equity fundless sponsors during a single week in June.

In some cases, add-on transactions to existing portfolio companies are challenging because the owners may have never gone through a sale process, while their counsel often aren’t experienced in the M&A process. As a result, Hanna and his team frequently had to do extra work to meet closing deadlines.

“Each of the deals we closed during that week in June had its own complexities,” Hanna says. “To keep it all straight, you must stay organized with your notes, emails, and checklists, along with having regular conversations with clients. We’re big on checklists. What I’m finding today is I’m able to run more of these transactions and lead the negotiations. I’m taking more of a leadership role, and that will bode well for my career.”   

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Adviser of the Year

Lee Kellert • Partner
Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer, and Weiss • Southfield

Lee Kellert standing in a boardroom
Lee Kellert

Why Lee Kellert is the ACG Adviser of the Year

A self-described “adrenaline junkie,” Lee Kellert, a partner at Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer, and Weiss in Southfield, spends his downtime racing a Chevrolet Corvette — both against other drivers and against a clock. The 2003 race car, with its interior cage, a seat, and safety straps, is ideal for track racing.

“It’s a lot of fun, and the racing helps me get away from everything at the office,” says Kellert, who’s coming off the busiest year of his career. Throughout 2021, the lawyer led nearly 30 transactions that collectively totaled more than $1 billion. Of those, five were new platform deals for independent sponsors, each of which included an acquisition, senior and mezzanine debt financing, and an equity raise, adding additional layers of complexity.

Kellert also worked on several transactions both on the buy-side and the sell-side, and within very accelerated time frames; he says some deals were closed in 30 days or less. The volume of deal opportunities was unlike anything he’d previously seen in the market, he adds, and came at a time when PE funds were flush with cash and looking to deploy resources to the right opportunity.

“I’ve never seen the market that busy, and I don’t think we’ll see it again,” Kellert says. “Last year required a lot of dedication. For the first time in my career, there were long days pretty much every day, and I was even putting in time on Saturdays and Sundays. I worked at night catching up on emails and staying organized — really hyper-organized. I tend to multitrack things, and that played to one of my strengths.”

Among the transactions, Kellert closed eight add-on acquisitions for Bloomfield Hills-based ARCH Global Precision, a contract manufacturer in the aerospace, defense, medical, and semiconductor sectors. In addition, he created three new platform deals for Strength Capital Partners in Birmingham, and a new platform deal for Leelanau Private Capital and Credo Private Capital. His team of advisers included E&Y, PWC, UHY Advisors, Gallagher, and Lockton.

“There was pent-up demand from uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, money was cheap, a lot of VC firms were flush with cash, and all of that drove the market activity,” Kellert says. “Some firms were so busy they were turning away work, some CPAs had backlogs, and there were lots of delays on the service provider end. You really had to stay on top of everything because some of the deals had to be closed in short time frames.” 

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Investment Banker of the Year

Cliff Roesler • Managing Director
Angle Advisors • Birmingham

Cliff Roesler in a board room
Cliff Roesler

Why Cliff Roesler is the ACG Investment Banker of the Year

If 2020 was a nightmare due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the resulting lockdowns, Cliff Roesler cites last year as the “perfect honeymoon” to address pent-up demand for M&A activity, both here and across the globe. Capital was widely available, inflation was still at manageable levels, and buyers and sellers were anxious to close transactions.

“What surprised me in 2021 was how much of our work was still being done virtually; we had transactions closing without anyone getting together,” says Roesler, managing director of Angle Advisors in Birmingham, which he co-founded with Kevin Marsh in 2010. “If you had told anyone you would close virtual transactions before COVID-19, you would’ve been laughed out of the room.”

Last year, Roesler worked on three buy-side and 10 sell-side transactions, with a total enterprise value of $437 million. Seven of the deals were international in nature and involved Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and China. Adding to the complexity were potential tax code changes. As a result, two deals that were scheduled to close in 2022 were concluded before the end of the calendar year; one buyer decided to close a deal on Dec. 20.

“I never had 13 deals, which is double what would be a big year,” Roesler says. “If I completed six deals (in a year), I’d be thrilled. Having so many deals was unusual, but it speaks to the remarkable efficiency of the American economy. Despite the virus, the economy persevered and the transactions accelerated. I would never have predicted that.” 

Due to high demand for deals, an unusual aspect of 2021 was finding service providers in support of M&A transactions, Roesler says. From the second quarter onward, there was a shortage of accounting and legal professionals, and by the fourth quarter underwriters had stopped taking on new representation and warranty insurance policies (RWI).

“The last two years have taught me to embrace change,” Roesler says. “COVID-19 seemed like a complete nightmare, but we learned we can work successfully without spending two days traveling for a two-hour meeting. Whether working from the office or home, we can be more efficient using the cloud, and by scheduling events to include more people at one time. Despite some heartbreaking losses, two years of COVID-19 taught me there’s a silver lining in every dark cloud,” he adds. “Even very, very dark clouds.” 

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In Memoriam – Lifetime Achievement Award

Sharon Kimble • Executive Director
ACG Detroit

Sharon Kimble headshot
Sharon Kimble

Why Sharon Kimble earned ACG’s Lifetime Achievement Award

In 2000, when Sharon Kimble began working as executive director of the Detroit chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth, a global organization for middle-market M&A professionals, she had several clients in the group management and event planning industry.

But after a few years, she took a chance and began working with ACG Detroit full time. “She made the decision to go all in to ACG and give up her other clients, and I admire her for that,” says Tom Vaughn, a member and co-head of the M&A Group of Dykema in Detroit, a board member of ACG Detroit, and chair of the organization’s annual M&A All-Star Awards. “It was a risk, and in some ways she was an entrepreneur herself.”

In February, Kimble passed away from complications from Guillain-Barré Syndrome. She had  been battling the aggressive inflammatory disorder for nearly a year. To honor her work, ACG Detroit selected Kimble for its Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given out annually as part of the M&A All-Star Awards.

“Sharon was the most dedicated person ACG Detroit has ever had,” says Douglas P. LaLone, a partner at Fishman Stewart in Troy and a board member of ACG Detroit, which has 360 members. “She always knew how to get things done on time and with her friendly smile.”

The award recognizes Kimble for her work in building ACG Detroit into a premier M&A association. Under her leadership, the organization received back to back recognition from ACG Global as Chapter of the Year in 2015 and 2016, a distinction that helped the organization become one of the leading ACG chapters in the country.

“I’ve known Sharon for 14 years, since I first met her at an ACG event,” says Kim Easterle Mattes, a vice president at Aon and a board member of ACG Detroit. “ She was always kind, giving, thoughtful, and generous with her time. She is so missed.”

Kurt Harvey, managing director of dental and health care at Caber Hill Advisors in Detroit, and president of ACG Detroit, says “words cannot adequately describe the meaningful and measurable impact that Sharon had on all of us personally and professionally.” 

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