Expansion permeated every aspect of Harris Williams & Co.’s dealmaking activity throughout 2016, which marked the investment bank’s 25th year in business. The investment bank advised on 13 percent more transactions than the previous year. Aggregate transaction value was the highest in the firm’s history, up 15 percent from the previous year. The firm’s headcount also grew, as did its geographical footprint, with the opening of its Washington, D.C., office.

“2016 was a milestone year,” said co-founder and managing director Hiter Harris in an interview. “We have seen other banks come and go, making it 25 years is a big deal. We have been leading the market for a long time now. You can see by the stability of our firm and the depth of people we have built something different. We are very proud of it.”

All of this came during a year when Christopher Williams, the firm’s other eponymous co-founder, departed and joined BDT Capital Partners. Williams’ move was expected. For many years, a focus of the investment bank has been developing the next generation of leaders to position it for continued growth and seamless transitions.

Harris Williams co-founder Hiter Harris.
“We have seen other banks come and go. Making it 25 years is a big deal," says Harris Williams co-founder Hiter Harris. Harris Williams & Co.

In 2016, the Richmond, Virginia-based firm saw activity in just about every industry in many different locations. The technology and industrials industries were very active. Harris Williams sold Workplace Systems to Insight Capital Partners; Leisure Pass Group to Exponent Private Equity; and Exocad GmbH to the Carlyle Group LP (Nasdaq: CG) in September.

The Exocad deal was complicated as it spanned across three countries and garnered extreme interest from buyers. “The sale of Exocad to the Carlyle Group was a terrific example of the firm’s unique approach, because we had teams in London, Frankfurt and Boston working together to create a tremendous outcome for everyone involved,” said Ned Valentine, executive managing director. “It’s our culture to work together, to know what’s good for the client and what’s good for the firm is good for the individuals. Our people get this.”

Harris Williams & Co. closed transactions across its 10 dedicated industry groups with brand name client companies. The firm sold West Star Aviation Inc. to Norwest Equity Partners; Boxley Materials Co. to Summit Materials (NYSE:SUM); and Hanna Andersson Holding Corp. to L Catterton, among others.

Strategic acquirers were active in 2016, and Harris Williams & Co. worked closely with them as well, closing a number of transactions with large corporations including Schuler AG (BAYB: SCUN), Charles River Laboratories (NYSE: CRL and Rabalais Constructors LLC, among others.

“We still have a lot to accomplish. We are as scrappy and resourceful today as we have ever been. But our talent has gotten better and stronger over the years, and we look forward to being around another 25 years and beyond,” said Harris.

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