Kristin Johnson, managing director, Altamont Capital is one of 36 dealmakers named in Mergers & Acquisitions’ 2019 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A. Click here for the full list. This year, we asked the dealmakers to tell their stories in their own voices through Q&As.
How did you get into dealmaking?
I began my career after college in management consulting. While I learned a lot from the variety of the assignments in strategy and operations, I found myself more interested in the quantitative elements of business -how our assignments would drive revenue growth and cash flow, and how they would impact value for shareholders. After business school, I joined Morgan Stanley to build those advisory skillsets. I primarily worked with private equity firms on financing and monetizing portfolio companies, and presenting new investment ideas. I joined TPG’s fundraising team in 2007 after 10 years in banking. It was certainly an interesting seat during the tumultous global financial crisis as both GPs and LPs faced both dramatic portfolio challenges as well as investment opportunities. I have led sourcing and capital markets for Altamont Capital since the firm was founded 8 years ago.
How has a mentor helped your career?
I was fortunate early in my career at Morgan Stanley to work with Ruth Porat, currently the CFO at Alphabet. I was inspired by her drive to provide the most thoughtful advice for clients, her tireless work ethic, and her no-nonsense approach to difficult situations. As she rose through the ranks, she retained her ability to connect with bankers at all levels, as coach and mentor. These skills proved incredibly useful during the global financial crisis as she led several financial institutions, including Morgan Stanley, through some difficult times, and I feel honored to have worked with her.
What is your current role?
I lead Capital Markets and Business Development for Altamont. I am one of 8 partners, and I joined when the firm was founded in September 2010. Adding a dedicated sourcing capability was an important investment for us as a young firm. I believe that from the beginning, my combination of relationship focus, work ethic and depth of investment knowledge helped us quickly generate and maintain a reputation in the middle market. We are currently investing our third fund (~$1Bn) focused primarily on making long term, control investments. In the last twelve months we have seen over 1,300 deals, so we’re incredibly active. Our capital markets efforts seek to align the right lending partners and capital structure with our investment thesis. While there is a lot of debt available, we seek to work with firms who provide flexibility, consistency and growth. In both areas, we have a systematic approach to execution but for us, it all comes down to the importance of relationships.
Describe a challenge you overcame.
When the firm was started, our three founders had a strong view about the firm’s strategy, and they realized from the beginning that the firm’s success would be driven by the team and firm culture. The early team largely comprised people with whom the founders had worked in some capacity. As we grew, we needed to maintain consistency of culture and approach while making sure we were developing an environment where a variety of viewpoints were encouraged.
How do you support women?
Senior women have an obligation both internally and externally to be supporting diversity efforts. I’m encouraged by the recent press which has highlighted the positive impact of having a variety of perspectives on investment returns. At Altamont, I have been involved in recruiting and developing our team, organizing regular events as well as informal mentoring opportunities. More broadly, I have partipated for several years in formal and informal networking events with other leading women in private equity and investment banking, and I have been active on panels in various settings.
What is your advice for women?
First, don’t be afraid to make mistakes – private equity is all about assessing and taking risks, but expect that mistakes will happen along the way so learn from them. Second, speak up – working hard is not enough; you need to make your voice heard to be seen as an impactful thought leader.
When you’re not making deals, what is your favorite thing to do?
I like to stay active – running, walking the dog, playing golf and tennis, playing games with the kids. With the “always on” nature of private equity, I believe that long term health will be much better if we can take time for breaks, put email and phone away and be thankful for the positive things life has to offer.