Nanette Heide, partner, Duane Morris, 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?
At a point in my career, I became an in-house General Counsel. A significant aspect of my position was reviewing all contracts and agreements with clients and vendors. The goal was always to create value for the company, so it was imperative that we reach a favorable outcome for the business, a reasonable compromise on issues where necessary, and ensure positive economic outcomes. It was in this role that I really learned how to be a dealmaker.
How has a mentor helped your career?
When I first moved to New York to practice law, I was a litigator. I worked extensively with a woman partner who was brilliant and intimidating; she really pushed me to be my best. There were many nights I thought I could never find the answers or write a brilliant legal argument, but she would tell me to keep at it, that I would find what I needed. For her, quitting was not an option, and she instilled that in me. It inspired me to dig deep and accomplish things I didn’t think I was capable of doing. Because that partner didn’t give up on me, and encouraged me, I kept working and became a better lawyer. To this day, I encourage the people who work with me, especially the women, to be persistent, dig deep and find their path. I try to instill in them the same confidence that she had in me.
What is your current role?
I am a partner in the Duane Morris Corporate Practice Group. I represent private equity and venture capital investors, multinational and domestic corporations (public and private), in a wide spectrum of corporate finance transactions, including mergers and acquisitions, private equity and venture capital investments, institutional private placements, cross-border transactions, debt and equity structuring transactions, reverse mergers, joint ventures and strategic alliances. I have also formed and structured private equity and hedge funds. My clients span a wide variety of industries, from companies in the retail and consumer products industries, including fashion and apparel, pharmaceutical and medical technology to communications, to media and Internet-based businesses. I am also a member of our Partners’ Board, which is responsible for all major policy decisions for the firm. In addition, I serve as the Chair, Duane Morris Fashion, Retail & Consumer Products industry sector group and am a member of the Steering Committee for our Women’s Impact Network for Success. Starting in January, I will be the co-leader of our Private Equity Group. A typical day in my life includes working on transactions, providing counseling to current clients and meeting with prospective clients, as well as attending to administrative matters. My day usually starts with a 5:00 am workout and ends at 10:00 pm. In between, I make time for my family, especially to guide my son through his studies. It is a crazy busy life, but I wouldn’t trade it. I get energized from helping my clients resolve complex issues and use my experience to help move their business forward.
Describe your influence on the middle market.
This past year, I co-founded Exponent: Raising Women Dealmakers to a New Power. We created Exponent to provide a new platform where women in the finance ecosystem could come together to exchange ideas, information and introductions. In July 2018, we hosted our inaugural Exponent Exchange, which brought together more than 200 women for a day of networking and content-rich presentations. We curated the attendees from a trusted network, so the connections everyone made were meaningful. We are furthering our mission and have hosted several successful events. Through Exponent, we continue to influence the way women make deals happen together. In addition, I am a member of the Corporate and Mergers and Acquisitions Committee of the International Bar Association (IBA) – The Global Voice of the Legal Profession. I am currently Vice-Chair (and Chair-Elect) of the Private Equity Subcommittee. This past October, together with five other women attorneys focused on M&A, we created the first-ever meeting of Women in International M&A held at the IBA Annual Meeting and Conference in Rome, Italy. The meeting drew over 60 attendees. Through this, we established another platform for women lawyers from around the globe focused on M&A to meet and exchange information to further international M&A transactions. I am regular asked to speak on panels at conferences and presentations. I also contribute articles to publications and am quoted by various news sources.
Describe a recent deal.
I am currently leading a deal with a cannabis company that will complete a “reverse takeover” with a Canadian company listed on the Canadian Stock Exchange. I am working on two other similar transactions. The deal is significant because of its structural complexity and the multitude of disciplines involved – mergers and acqusitions, corporate structuring, corporate governance, securities laws (both US and Canadian), tax (both tax free reorganzation and inversion analysis), ERISA, employment and benefits laws, just to name a few. These types of deals are gaining prevalence as our farming economy shifts to accommdate the growing cannabis industry. While rural communities are being revitalized by these new opportuntiies for farm use, it is also imperative that these corporate transacctions are completed in a manner that enhances the confidence the investment community has in the integrity of the participants.
Describe a challenge you overcame.
There was a point in my career where I wasn’t being recognized for my contributions to the firm where I was practicing. It was very frustrating and disappointing. I had to decide whether to stay where I was and keep working to be recognized there, or move on. I chose the latter, which wasn’t an easy decision. I had recently had my son and was afraid a move would disrupt my family life. What I didn’t see was the strength I had built up in my career that would open numerous doors for me and allow me to set my own rules at a new firm. In the end, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
What is your advice for women?
Be yourself and do what you love. If you don’t love what you do, it won’t love you back. Most of all, don’t be afraid to be the woman in the room; embrace it. It provides you with more advantages than you will ever know.
When you’re not making deals, what is your favorite thing to do?
Spend time with my family, especially my son Wyatt. I love to watch him surf and skateboard, and am in awe of his abilities, because I have zero coordination and balance.
What other career path might you have chosen?
I probably would have pursued an MBA at some point and perhaps been a dealmaker at a fund or an investment banker. I love to analyze deals and understand the synergies that drive the overall business goals.