2015 Winners in Depth

Antares’ John Martin and David Brackett Nurtured the Middle Market’s Largest Lender Through Competitive Sale, Scoring Dealmakers of the Year

Many bidders competed for the coveted target, which GE ultimately sold to Canada’s largest pension fund for $12 billion

Antares Capital had a strong 2015, but it was also a year of transition for the lender. In April, GE (NYSE:GE) announced the sale of most GE Capital assets, including GE Antares, which it had acquired 10 years earlier. Still, the Antares platform closed 188 senior loan transactions to private equity-backed borrowers across more than 100 private equity firms, including 50 new platforms, totaling $11.3 billion in commitments and making it one of the most active providers of capital to private equity-backed companies in the middle market, according to Thomson Reuters’ 2015 sponsored middle market league tables. David Brackett and John Martin, co-CEOs of the firm, led the lender’s success, which is why we’re honoring them with Mergers & Acquisitions’ 2015 Dealmakers of the Year.

After a highly competitive process with many bidders vying for the coveted target, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) won Antares in a $12 billion transaction to form a long-term partnership to grow the business and its product offerings.

Brackett and Martin, who have worked together since 1982, founded Antares Capital, sold it to GE Capital and worked to sell Antares to CPPIB. “Actually, our core team has been together since 1996 and the senior leaders have worked together for 25 plus years, which is unheard of today,” says Martin.

Despite not knowing what new ownership would bring, virtually every single sponsor client agreed to the transfer of Antares’ agencies--a vote of confidence in the firm’s ability to work under new ownership. Sponsors trusted that Antares could seamlessly manage multi-million-dollar bank loan syndicates to their borrowers during the transition. The loans and agencies transfer took five weeks, during which Antares continued to sign up new deals. The Antares platform did not miss a single borrower request during that time. The firms lent on deals to middle-market clients including ABRY Partners, CCMP, GTCR, H.I.G. Capital and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, among others. “The sale process could have taken a lot of turns, and we are very fortunate because it’s working out great to be partnered with CPPIB,” says Brackett. For more on Anatares, see our Q&A and video interview with Brackett. Also, see our video interview with Anatares senior managing director Chet Zara.

Antares is in growth mode. The Chicago-based lender hired a new chief financial officer, head of human resources and general counsel. The firm also hired a head of structured products in hopes of breaking into the collateralized loan obligation market. “The traditional banks are challenged by regulatory issues and the business development companies are challenged by market conditions, we are sitting here with permanent capital, and a partner that is ready to back us,” says Martin.