Operator, Investor and Advisor Profile Successful M&A

For the October 2016 M&A panel, ACG Portland and D.A. Davidson brought together a group of industry veterans representing different sides of the deal to talk about the state of M&A today and what makes a successful deal. In case you missed it, here are some highlights.

The State of M&A

brad-gevurtzBrad Gevurtz, Managing Director Investment Banking for D.A. Davidson, kicked off the event with a brief overview of M&A activity in the country and the Northwest.

2015 was the industry’s biggest year ever, and while deal volume and size are still healthy in 2016, the industry has seen a decline in most categories this year. Gevurtz pointed out that some of the slowdown is to be expected after a record-breaking year like 2015.

Election year uncertainty and the slow global economy also bear some responsibility for the softness so far this year.

The bright spot in Gevurtz’s comments was reserved for Oregon. Oregon’s M&A activity is nearly on par with Washington’s for the first time, thanks to our state’s healthy and growing economic base in the consumer discretionary and technology sectors (favorites in M&A regionally and nationally).

Inside the Deal: Alpha Media Group

The three panelists discussed in detail the transactions they had done together founding and capitalizing Alpha Media, which began with just 6 stations in 2009 and has grown into a new network of 251 stations today.

On why he and his team would want to plunge into a saturated, mature industry, fighting new technologies with a growth strategy.

bob-proffittBob Proffitt, President and CEO of Alpha Media, LLC:

“Pandora is not profitable… They lost $169 million last year.”

“Radio is really only 30 to 40% concentrated… Every market is different.”

Proffitt said he doesn’t worry too much about the “background music” satellite channels that are hemorrhaging money. He described the way the company embraces social media as a tool rather than a threat with streaming, podcasts, and social media listener engagement.

Alpha Media leverages the company’s “Live and Local” strategy to take on less concentrated, second-tier cities. They embrace the quirky, local, differentiating bits of culture that resonate with listeners in order to demonstrate the company’s focus on local brand.

On what attracted Endeavor Capital to Alpha Media.

Mark Dorman, Managing Director of Endeavor Capital:

mark-dorman“The team. We were very impressed with Bob and the team. As middle market investors, you don’t often get the chance to work with the best in the industry.”

“2008 and 2009 was an opportunistic time to get back into the market (after the 2001 sale of Citadel Broadcasting).”

“It took a couple of years to find add-ons before sellers awoke to reality.”

“Citadel sold at 16 times trailing cash flow and we are now buying at six to seven.”

Dorman portrayed an effective cocktail of the best operating team: market timing, well-structured and adaptable capital, and patience waiting for the right opportunities and prices.

How Sellers Can Be Seen as Valuable

Brad Gevurtz:

“Barriers to entry, differentiated product or service, top line growth, margin, and an experienced management team”.

All of these need to be there to draw broad interest and command good multiples because at the end of the day:

“Buyers are numbers people.”


Want more opportunities to get an inside look at the M&A industry from leaders in the industry? Looking for opportunities to meet other M&A professionals? Visit ACG Portland’s website at www.acg.org/portland and see what’s coming up on our events calendar.


Leadership Lessons from History, Technology, Wine, Rock & Roll and Satellite Stalking: Gary Mortensen, CEO of Stoller Family Estate, Shares a Different Path.

Gary Mortensen CEO, Stoller Family Estate
Gary Mortensen
CEO, Stoller Family Estate

Tuesday evening Gary Mortensen, President of Stoller Family Estate, founder of The History Engine and FonWallet Transaction Solutions, Inc., and ACG Portland Board Member came to the Peer Growth Event podium as raconteur.  Perched comfortably and casually on a high stool Mortensen energetically told the tale of his unusual career which has taken him full-circle back to the winemaking industry and the former turkey farm he knew in his youth.

From Sokol Blosser in 1998 to Stoller Family Estate by way of entrepreneurial ventures in IT, documentary filmmaking, and the preservation of US war veteran history, his journey might leave a casual observer to wonder how such disparate endeavors could lead to success.  But as the evening unfolded, a clear path connecting the anecdotes emerged.  Here are some key quotes and observations.

 “… so, you have an 11 year inventory cycle…”

There are some simple, universal principles that apply to every business everywhere.  Wrapping his mind around his first real job at the young and struggling Sokol Blosser, Gary looked at the growing inventory of wine and immediately knew they had a sales problem with a product that would not sell by word-of-mouth.

Twenty three years later, the Stoller product would definitely sell itself but Mortensen knew volume was the way to overcome the overhead of growing great wine and building the first LEED Gold Certified Winery.  He marched the company through five years of stunning production growth from 9,000 to 41,000 cases.  Mortensen estimates “40% of Oregon wineries are losing money” and asserts, “You need 30,000 cases to be profitable.”  He expects the industry will go through much consolidation in the coming years.

“… the No. 1 winery in Oregon – Most were laughing or scoffing – A few leaned forward – Guess who made the cut… We only want Owners.”

The ratio of engaged to unengaged employees is broadly accepted as correlated with corporate success. Mortensen calls them “Owners and Renters.”  Describing a company strategy session sizing up his new staff at Stoller, he looked for signs of engagement and gave evidence of an impatient preference for those who will make a difference over those who would impede – Engagement is not just important in big companies.

“You have to be disruptive – If you are not disruptive, others are passing you by.”

Only a very astute scholar of people and culture as well as a daring disrupter conceives a plan to combine the public’s appetite for outdoor popular music concerts with a vineyard’s need to move large inventories of not-very-good wine. Mortensen’s unorthodox plan quickly and serially solved the 11-year-inventory-cycle problem while the young winery learned to produce wine the public would seek on its own merits.

Gary also imagined naming a blend of left-over white varietals “Evolution #9” to suggest a Beatles song, tapping into the same popular music culture and making that barrel-cleanup a best seller year after year? – “I wish I had asked for royalties on that one”, he laments.

Readers have been kept wondering about the “Satellite Stalking” bit.  Those with young adult children may remember the “Big Bang Theory” episode when Harold and Raj reposition a government satellite to help them find the address where the contestants in America’s Next Top Model are staying? – This popular TV program episode concept may have come from Gary Mortensen. – Gary shared an account of a visit during his IT years to a secure government facility.  His efforts to connect with and understand his government clients were so effective that, before he knew it, they were showing him satellite imagery of a European city that they were using to shop for real estate near the home of their favorite Rock music icon.

In Gary’s Linkedin Summary he writes, As a historian, I believe it’s also about how we remember and learn from those who have gone before us.”  Indeed, it would appear in his passion for history and in his leadership he reveals himself as a student of human beings. – Throughout the evening, Mortensen’s tale gave evidence of the success that comes from understanding people and fluidly transferring that understanding to practical, leadership application.


Stoller Vineyard Nominated for Best Tasting Room

Best Tasting Room_USA TODAY_Stoller

We’re excited to share some great news from one of ACG Portland’s long-time sponsors and members. Stoller Family Estates has been nominated for Best Tasting Room by USA Today!

There are only four days left to help Stoller achieve the top spot. Visit USA Today’s voting page and cast your vote for Stoller today.

Stoller’s tasting room sits in the middle of its 373-acre vineyard on the edge of Oregon’s Dundee Hills. The tasting room combines environmental sustainability and high-efficiency design, harvesting 100 percent of its energy through a 236-panel solar panel installation.

The winery joins progressive, environmentally-friendly design with gentle, traditional winemaking practices that minimize its environmental impact. They are one of the premiere sustainable wineries in the Pacific Northwest, and the first LEED Gold Certified winery in the world.

Visit the official voting page to cast your vote for Stoller before voting closes on August 15 (12PM EST).

To experience the Stoller Family Estates wine selection and tasting room yourself, visit their tasting room website and make a reservation.

August Board Message – Membership Committee Chair

Help grow the Portland ACG Chapter, bring a guest who might be interested in joining.

In 2005, I applied for membership to ACG at the suggestion of some close friends who thought it would be a good fit for me. I was doing business almost exclusively in the greater Portland community as the new owner of Executive Forum; a significant change from my prior career in which I traveled for my work. Now eleven years later, I can extend a shout out to those that introduced me to ACG. It has been everything they had represented it to be and more.

I’m sharing my experience because I believe there are many others who are seeking the same opportunity to develop rich, collegial relationships and connect with other professionals in the Portland business community. In addition to networking with other leaders, ACG provides a wealth of corporate growth experiences aimed at personal development. At our Peer Growth meetings, a CEO typically shares their growth story with aha moments, successes and the challenges experienced on their watch.

As a member of the Board and membership chair for 2016, it is obvious to me that the Board identified growing membership and engagement as top priorities. To that end, over the past year, membership categories were simplified and clarified to embrace growth in number as well as diversity. One significant initiative is the creation of a new membership category with an eye to succession for young professionals. Our new Excelling Leaders category welcomes under 40 professionals into ACG to participate in general membership activities as well as those design specifically for EL members.

For the past four years, our membership has hovered around 120. Starting in early 2016 the membership committee adopted a goal of adding 30 Excelling Leader members in addition to 40 new corporate and/or business advisory members. In order to accomplish these goals before year end, we need every member’s participation.

Our primary way to grow membership is through membership candidates attending ACG as a guest to experience the value of membership first-hand. We welcome potential new members and allow two visits at no charge to those who seriously want to check out ACG membership. So far this year, we are only averaging 12 guests at each regular meeting and we need upward of 25 at every remaining meeting this year to support our 2016 membership goal.

We have nine very committed membership committee members. But as an all-volunteer organization, membership growth takes everyone’s helping-hand. Bring a friend, business associate, or a high performer in your organization who meets the Excelling Member category and share the experience. If you make a commitment to bringing just one guest to any of the three remaining meetings, we will attract the new members we need.

I’ll be looking forward to seeing you in September at the Moda Center and be sure to bring a guest.

See you there.

John Cochran

How to ‘Move’ Your Business to the Next Level: Insights from Nat Parker, CEO of moovel North America

Nat Parker_1
Nat Parker, CEO of moovel North America

On Tuesday, we had the privilege of hearing from Nat Parker, CEO of moovel North America. Nat first conceived what would become GlobeSherpa while enrolled in a graduate program at Portland State University in 2007. His vision was a mobile app that could provide a transportation ticketing hub for municipal transit. His entrepreneurial path was less clear. He learned early on that funding doesn’t just show up. A friend connected Nat with Doug Fieldhouse, president and CEO of Vesta Corp. Nat shared how he and Fieldhouse met for coffee so he could explain his business plan. Fieldhouse was impressed enough to cut a $50,000 check that Nat was not expecting and returned within a week.

“I gave back the check and learned a big lesson from Doug. He said ‘never turn down money.”

Amidst hunting for investors and growing his fledgling business, Nat was fighting off competition and litigation and navigating an acquisition by a much larger corporation. Nat shared several of the bumps and bruises that took his Portland-based GlobeSherpa to Daimler-owned moovel North America.

The theme of Nat’s presentation—and what most applies to other leaders working to grow their organizations—was the need to put personal feelings and egos aside in order to make the best decisions as a CEO. To do what’s best for the company and for the customer, sometimes, you have to take yourself out of the equation.

Here are a few memorable examples that Nat shared on Tuesday evening.

Being Humble and Open
In 2007, Nat’s initial idea was to share images of geographic locations as well as recommendations and reviews.

“Today, that’s called Google or Yelp. GlobeSherpa, and now moovel, is a much different company than I set out to create. But, sometimes, you have to kill your darlings.”

Making Hard, Smart Decisions
Just as GlobeSherpa was getting going and working to expand into Washington D.C., its biggest competitor sued for patent infringement.

“We all knew the suit was worthless, and my board wanted to fight it. I wanted to fight it, but that fight was costing us new business. It was a hard pill to swallow, and I had to fight my own board, but we chose to settle so that the company could move forward.”

There is no ‘I’ in Team
Ten months after Daimler acquired GlobeSherpa, they were merged with Austin-based Ridescout and Nat was named CEO.

“I knew both sides would need to bleed a little for the team and culture to survive. So I made my leadership team in Portland report to the Ridescout team in Austin. I felt I’d done the right thing when my leadership team and their leadership team universally hated me.”

Every month, ACG Portland brings talented young entrepreneurs and industry veterans together for unique programming. Visit our calendar to find out about upcoming events in Portland.

Register Today for Our July 12 Peer Growth Event with moovel CEO Nat Parker

Nat Parker_1

Don’t miss a very special Peer Growth Event with Nat Parker, CEO of moovel, one of Oregon’s hottest startups.

In 2015, less than two years after Nat’s company GlobeSherpa launched its transformative mobile ticketing app for publiclogo-moovel transportation, Daimler acquired GlobeSherpa. Ten months later, Daimler merged it with Austin-based RideScout and named Parker CEO of the newly renamed company, moovel.

Moovel is creating the future of urban mobility by offering new ways to connect the urban mobility ecosystem. This is a true Portland success story that you won’t want to miss.

Join us to hear how Nat and his cofounder were able to found and grow their company while they were still graduate students at Portland State University.

We’ll be holding this event on Tuesday, July 12 from 5:30-7:30 PM at the historic BridgePort Brew Pub. Don’t forget to register in advance!

June President Message

Mark your calendars for March 2nd 2017!dave-porter

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Cordell Berge and the ACG Cup committee, the Portland Chapter of Association for Corporate Growth® (ACG) is pleased to announce ACG Cup® Northwest, a “real world” finance-related competition that will present up to $10,000 in awards to the winning teams of MBA students representing the top MBA programs in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

The ACG Cup® is a case-study competition where MBA students solve real-world situations in a high-pressure setting.  The students are challenged to find solutions for a finance-related case in the field of mergers and acquisitions, investment banking, financial advisory and private equity. After the teams analyze the case and agree upon a course of action, the students make presentations to a panel of judges comprised of successful corporate executives in the field of finance.

The ACG Cup® Northwest competition has attracted significant interest from leading MBA schools in the Northwest.  MBA programs that have made early commitments to the program include the Foster School of Business (University of Washington), the Lundquist School of Business (University of Oregon) and the MBA Program at Portland State University.

Michele Henney, Program Director of the University of Oregon Finance Securities Analysis Center stated, “The UO’s Lundquist College of Business is excited to be part of the ACG Cup® Northwest – a premier opportunity for students to showcase their knowledge in the area of corporate mergers and acquisitions.  These sorts of experiential activities help students apply their classroom knowledge and interact with industry professionals in a very realistic setting.”

Dan Poston, Assistant Dean for Master’s Programs at the Foster School of Business, University of Washington, stated, “We enthusiastically support and look forward to participating in the ACG Cup® Northwest case competition.  For many years, the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business has sent student teams to intercollegiate case competitions at both the undergraduate and graduate level.  We believe events such as the ACG Cup® challenge our students to pull together all the things they have learned in a program to address an intriguing problem with a team of classmates, come up with a creative solution, and experience the thrill of presenting and defending a complete proposal to judges who are industry professionals.”

The competition is modeled after other ACG Cup® programs that are hosted each year by ACG chapters in major markets throughout North America.  The case study that is used is written annually for the competition by the investment banking firm Houlihan Lokey in Los Angeles.

First-round competitions are held on campus at each school in early 2017.  Each team will analyze and present their solutions and recommendations to a complex business case that requires a combination of corporate strategy, finance and management skills.

The semi-final competition will be held by the Washington and Idaho schools in Seattle and the Oregon schools in Portland in February 2017.  The finals will be held in Portland on March 2, 2017, and will consist of the top two Washington/Idaho schools vs. the top two Oregon schools.

The final competition will be held prior to an evening social event consisting of ACG and FEI (Finance Executives International) members, final team participants, judges, business school professors, sponsors and guests from the financial community.  A keynote speaker will headline the evening’s dinner event prior to the presentation by Umpqua Bank to the winning teams.

ACG Portland is pleased to host the competition in partnership with other organizations, including FEI chapters in Seattle and Portland as well as ACG Seattle.  The ACG Cup® Northwest committee is accepting volunteers from the corporate community as mentors and judges.  Please call Steve Babcock at (503) 650-0834 for information.

Cordell Berge
Acquisitions Northwest, Inc.
(503) 225-0479

While you are penciling the ACG Cup into your calendars, don’t forget the upcoming wine social at Stoller Vineyards on June 23rd, the golf outing at Langdon Farms on July 27th and the Timbers match on August 7th. There is also an Excelling Leaders (members and prospects under 40) Kick-Off event on June 16th and newly added are T3 monthly no-host happy hour events (Third Thirsty Thursday). There is no registration required for T3 events. All other events require registration.

Lastly, the next Peer Growth event will be on July 12th with Nat Parker, CEO, Moovel (formerly GlobeSherpa).

Be sure to check the ACG website to catch up on all of the latest news and events.

David Porter, Partner, Geffen Mesher
ACG Portland 2016 President

ACG Intergrowth 2016: Tales of the Deal

Casey Boggs, President LT PR
Casey Boggs, Pres. LT PR

Contributed by:  Casey Boggs

New Orleans, Louisiana marked the location of the 2016 ACG Intergrowth conference—hosting more than 2,000 middle-market dealmakers for three days of, well, dealmaking. With 57 ACG chapters (representing 14,500 members) present, there were plenty of opportunities to network—even for those non-dealmakers like me.

As the lone ACG Portland ambassador at Intergrowth, my objective in attending was to 1) connect with other ACG members and dealmakers, 2) assess and report back on the latest trends and issues in the middle-market, and 3) enjoy the sights, sounds and eats of N’awlins.

The overarching theme for this year’s conference centered around where lending is heading, M&A activity and strategy, and the evolution of private equity (PE). The buzz surrounding Intergrowth 2016 also focused a lot around the political landscape and the upcoming elections.

I was fortunate to have a front seat (yes, I was “that guy” who rushed in early to get a close seat) to the keynote presentation with speakers David Axelrod (former senior advisor to President Obama), Chuck Todd (Host of Meet the Press) and Ana Navarro (political analyst for CNN and CNN En Español).

No doubt that the “Clinton/Trump” debate is inevitable; the speakers spent the majority of their 0:45 minutes discussing what the country and world might look like if either of the candidates were to be elected.  Specifically, the speakers attempted to translate how these candidates might affect the economic well-being and the private equity market.  I didn’t get a clear consensus on the where each presenter stood on the topic, but it was clear that “economic anxiety is the fuel for both political campaigns.”

Other breakout sessions were very niche in focus, including a look at global capital availability, last year’s (certainly not the beginning of 2016!) M&A success and an interesting panel on the PE landscape. A bit too much “inside baseball talk” to offer any real valuable analysis on my end.  However, I did get a relatively favorable (fairly bullish) impression that M&A activity will be good for the remainder of 2016. Although, M&A was relatively slow in Q1 2016.

Networking and connecting is clearly the name of the game at ACG Intergrowth. If you’re not on one side or the other on a deal—you’re a service provider offering something of value to the deal.  While many areas of professional and corporate growth strategies were not relevant to bring back to my brethren of Portland business leaders, if you’re a “player” in the PE world or an M&A dealmaker, ACG Intergrowth is a MUST conference to attend. The access to intel and connections to be made is worth the price of admission.

Casey Boggs is an ACGPortland Board Member, immediate Past-President and serves on the Chapter’s Sponsorships Committee. He is the founder and President of LT Public Relations.  Read more from Casey at LT Public Relations’ blog.