And the 2012 Winners Are...

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Mergers & Acquisitions has announced the winners of its sixth annual M&A Mid-Market Awards. The awards honor the leading dealmakers and the deals that set the standard for transactions with an enterprise value of less than $1 billion.

Dealmaker of the Year honors were bestowed on Mark Brady, global head of M&A for William Blair & Co. The editors cited the 20-year veteran for delivering premium valuations, including the sale of TMW Systems Inc., which gave owner Pamlico Capital a return of 11 times its original investment. Pamlico partner Walker Simmons called Brady a “master at knowing what to do when the final bids come in.”

The Riverside Co. was recognized as Private Equity Firm of the Year. Riverside put up record numbers in 2012 — its 36 acquisitions and 14 exits included the firm's 300th transaction in its history. The private equity firm also fared well in fundraising, enjoying the first close on two new funds.

Starbucks Corp.’s $620 million purchase of Teavana Holdings Inc. was recognized as Deal of the Year. With Teavana, Starbucks hopes to forge a whole new consumer culture focused on tea, as it did with coffee decades ago.

This year’s honorees, which are chosen by the editors of Mergers & Acquisitions, all stood out for their ability to thrive despite industry headwinds. Winners of the M&A Mid-Market Awards delivered success stories in a year that saw deal activity shrink in value and volume terms from the previous year. Every one of our honorees offers proof that even in tough markets, execution and vision can prevail.

In addition, Mergers & Acquisitions recognized the following firms:

• Blue Sage Capital as Seller of the Year. Its sale of R360 Environmental Solutions Inc. to Waste Connection for $1.3 billion scored 63 times its original investment.

• Covidien plc as Strategic Buyer of the Year. The medical equipment and supply company’s aggressive dealmaking netted half a dozen acquisitions in fast-growing categories.

• Harris Williams & Co. as Investment Bank of the Year. During a down year for overall M&A, the boutique investment bank grew 60% in deal value and 50% in deal volume over 2011.

• Madison Capital Funding LLC as Lender of the Year. The firm expanded its innovative managed-account offerings, which allowed it to increase its hold sizes and attracted a valuable new partner in Apollo Investment Corp.

• K&L Gates LLP as Law Firm of the Year. K&L had an impressive year, particularly on the international front as it advised on cross-border transactions and struck a merger deal of its own with Middletons in Australia.

About the M&A Mid-Market Awards

To be eligible for Mergers & Acquisitions’ M&A Mid-Market Awards, deals must have closed during the previous year, involved a U.S.-based company as either buyer or seller and be valued at or below roughly $1 billion. Nominations are encouraged, but not required. Nominations are due Fri., Jan 31, 2014. Special consideration is given to such factors as performance, growth, innovation and thought leadership. Past winners include Advent International, Moelis & Co., Fifth Street Capital, Golub Capital, GE Capital, Jones Day, Sullivan & Cromwell, Amgen, eBay Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Oracle Corp., 3M Co., and Thermo Fisher Scientific.

What We Look For

What are Mergers & Acquisitions' annual M&A Mid-Market Awards all about, and what does it take to win?

Let's start with what they're not about. They're not about who's at the top of the league tables, although we spend a lot of time poring over the tables in the course of researching our choices. But if the winners were just the league-table leaders, you wouldn't need an editorial staff dedicated to covering middle-market M&A to pick them. The awards are a matter of our carefully-considered opinion, based on covering transactions and dealmakers day in, day out, all year long. We encourage submissions and examine them thoroughly - but our selections are not limited to companies that submit nominations. To be considered in this round, deals had to close in 2012 and have a value of about $1 billion or less. What we look for are companies and individuals who overcame the challenges the year brought and who took their business to the next level. Performance is important. William Blair & Co.'s Mark Brady won Dealmaker of the Year, in part, because of his ability to deliver premium valuations, including the sale of TMW Systems Inc., which gave Pamlico Capital 11 times its initial investment. Blue Sage Capital took home first prize as Seller of the Year for making a staggering 63 times its original investment in R360 Environmental Solutions Inc., which was sold to Waste Connection for $1.3 billion.

Growth matters. One reason we bestowed the Investment Bank of the Year on Harris Williams & Co. is because the boutique investment bank grew 60 percent in deal value and 50 percent in volume over the previous year. We're particularly impressed by that accomplishment, given that overall M&A shrank 10 percent in value and five percent in volume. Growth also contributed to the win for Deal of the Year by Starbucks Corp. (Nasdaq: SBUX) for its purchase of Teavana Holdings Inc. (NYSE: TEA) for $620 million. Leveraging M&A to expand into new businesses, Starbucks hopes to do for tea what it did for coffee. K&L Gates LLP, already a very active adviser in the middle market, expanded dramatically with the December merger with Australian law firm Middletons, winning it Law Firm of the Year.

Innovation matters. Covidien plc (NYSE: COV) captured the blue ribbon for Strategic Buyer of the Year, because the medical equipment and supply company is deploying M&A to replace and augment expensive research and development. Madison Capital Funding LLC won as Lender of the Year, in part, because it expanded its innovative managed-account offerings, which allowed it to increase its hold size and attracted a valuable new partner in Apollo Investment Corp.

Thought leadership in the industry counts, too. The Riverside Co. boasted a record year (its 24th in business) and marked a milestone in closing its 300th transaction, achievements that helped make it our Private Equity Firm of the Year. Sealing the deal, chief operating officer Pam Hendrickson served as a significant spokesperson for the private equity industry in her new role as vice chairman of the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG). This was especially meaningful during a period when the asset class was under intense scrutiny, thanks to the presidential election and Bain Capital co-founder Mitt Romney's running for the highest office in the land.

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