Centerbridge Partners has hired Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Barclays to seek buyers for restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s Bistro. “Given the positive performance of P.F. Chang’s Bistro and having received multiple unsolicited indications of interest, this is an exciting time to explore a sale,” says Steve Silver, global co-head of private equity at Centerbridge. The PE firm bought P.F. Chang’s in 2012 for $1.1 billion and recently separated the main brand and Pei Wei Asian Diner into two businesses. P.F. Chang’s owns and franchises more than 300 Asian restaurants globally. Its menu features items such as wok-fired filet mignon and miso glazed salmon. “We have enjoyed a very positive partnership with Centerbridge and are excited to tell prospective buyers about the company’s heritage, its attractive positioning in full-service Asian dining, the operational strengths of the business that we have built during Centerbridge’s ownership and its exciting growth prospects,” says P.F. Chang’s CEO Michael Osanloo. Americans come from all over the world, and they want food that reflects their diversity, and that is attracting buyers to ethnic-themed restaurants. For more on restaurant M&A trends, read: What’s attracting hungry buyers to restaurants? Here are 7 trends.

Venture capital funds globally continued their strong run of performance over recent years in the first quarter of 2018, with a near-record return of 1.45x, according to data from eFront. The figure is a slight drop from 1.49 times in the fourth quarter. U.S. Note: VC funds typically underperform their long-term average, partly due to the skewing effect of the “golden years” in the 1990’s, according to the report.

Exponent, a networking group for female dealmakers that launched in 2017, is gearing up for its first marquee Exponent Exchange event on July 12. The event is designed to bring “the best people and the best content together,” explains co-founder Nanette Heide, a partner at law firm Duane Morris. Exponent Exchange features keynote speaker Sallie Krawcheck, who previously served as CEO of several banks, including Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and the Citi Private Bank, and is the current CEO of Ellevest, an online investing platform aimed at women. Other scheduled speakers include: Lisa Bernstein, global head of human capital, Apollo Global Management LLC (NYSE: APO); Sarah Bradley, partner, Kainos Capital; Mary Kathleen Flynn, editor-in-chief, Mergers & Acquisitions; Jennifer Lu, executive director, Moelis & Co. (NYSE: MC); and Cheraé Robinson, founder, Tastemakers Africa. The organizers have succeeded in attracting an impressive group of sponsors for the event, including Apollo, Baird, BDO, Merrill Corp. and Moelis, underscoring increased interest in initiatives aimed at women dealmakers. Read the full story: Entrepreneurs Sallie Krawcheck, Cheraé Robinson to speak at Exponent Exchange.

Deal news
Marketing agency Interpublic Group (NYSE: IPG) is buying Acxiom Marketing Solutions from Acxiom Corp. for $2.3 billion. The acquisition will combine Interpublic’s IPG’s media, creative, marketing services and analytics services with the target’s data management. Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP is representing Interpublic. Citi (NYSE: C) and J.P. Morgan (NYSE: JPM) are providing financing.

Pharmaceutical delivery company Catalent Inc. is buying Juniper Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Nasdaq: JNP) for about $140 million. Rothschild, Chestnut Securities, and Goodwin are advising Juniper.

EQT is purchasing open source infrastructure software company Suse from Micro Focus for $2.5 billion. Arma Partners is advising EQT.

Transportation management company Logistyx Technologies has acquired technology provider Transparix. The deal is part of the buyer’s strategy to expand its global Software-as-a-Service and on-premise parcel transportation management software offerings.

People moves
Asif Ahmad has been named CEO at Ward Capital Partners-backed Dimensional Dental. Ahmad was most recently the CEO of healthcare technology company Anthelio Healthcare.

Nathan Seiler has been named managing partner at Ballard Spahr‘s Boulder, Colorado, office. Seiler focuses on M&A in the software and information technology, life sciences, telecommunications and renewable energy sectors.

Featured content
Justify recently joined the elite group of Triple Crown winners. But, as anyone who’s ever bet the ponies knows, they can’t all be Justifys. Sometimes you get a winner and sometimes, for reasons that aren’t quite clear to anyone, you get an underperformer. It’s a concept with which most fund sponsors may be intimately familiar. You bet on the investment because you foresee its potential and understand the path it needs to take in order to achieve it. Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting a stuck-in-the-mudder into racing shape, written by Accordion’s Rishi Jain and Anthony Horvat : Stuck in the mud: how to speed up an underperforming PE portfolio company.

Consolidation has become a driving force for M&A among car dealerships, with autonomous vehicles, ride-sharing and other influences contributing as well. An estimated 1,080 car dealerships were sold to 612 buyers between 2014 and 2017, reports Kerrigan Advisors, an Irvine, California, sell-side advisor to auto dealers. We asked Stephen Dietrich, a Denver-based Holland & Knight attorney with an auto dealer M&A practice, for his thoughts on trends in the sector and what middle-market private equity firms should consider when looking at potential deals for car dealerships. Read the full story: Car dealerships sell, as self-driving vehicles shake up auto industry.

Check out our slideshow on auto-related deals: Car parts makers fuel M&A, as industry readies for self-driving vehicles. Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) and Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP are advising Brunswick.

Today’s portfolio companies choose private equity funds “based on not just who’s going to pay them the most money, but who’s going to be more involved in helping them get to that next step, helping them to execute the strategy,” says BDO USA’s Bob Pearlman in this video interview shot at ACG InterGrowth 2018. Watch the full video: PE firms take a more strategic approach to portfolio companies than in the past.

“Clamoring to be the loudest person in the room” is not the way to bring more women into the middle market, says Suzie Doran of SingerLewak, in this video interview shot at ACG InterGrowth 2018. Doran serves as president of ACG Los Angeles, which recently took the Women of ACG Los Angeles on a private viewing of the 100th Anniversary Exhibition of King Tut at the California Science Center. “We’re about making connections and being able to take those connections to the next level.” Watch the full video: No “clamoring to be the loudest person in the room” at women dealmaker events.

Peter Van Raalte, co-founder of Corinthian Capital, and Mary Kathleen Flynn, editor-in-chief of Mergers & Acquisitions, were featured speakers at the ACG NY Industrial Conference at the New York Athletic Club. The conference is part of the ACG Northeast Industry Tour, sponsored by ACG New York, ACG Boston and ACG Philadelphia. View our slideshow: Manufacturing M&A: high prices but plenty of opportunities.

From stories of star athletes Arnold Palmer, Keith Hernandez and Tiger Woods to advice from entrepreneurs Bridgewater AssociatesRay Dalio, KPCB’s John Doerr, Nike’s Phil Knight and Brava Investments’ Nathalie Molina Niño, plus strategies to help business leaders in general, and female dealmakers in particular, the 15 books on Mergers & Acquisitions’ summer reading list entertain, instruct and inspire. Check out our listicle: Dealmaker’s guide to summer reading: 15 new books.

Read full coverage of Mergers & Acquisitions’ 11th annual M&A Mid-Market Award winners: Campbell Soup, Huron Capital, Idera CEO Randy Jacops, LLR Partners, McGuireWoods, Stryker, Twin Brook and William Blair.