Photo credit: Wet n’ Wild Phoenix

Six Flags Entertainment Corp. (NYSE: SIX), the world's largest regional theme park company, has agreed to buy the lease rights for five parks from EPR Properties (NYSE: EPR). The parks were previously operated by Oklahoma City-based Premier Parks LLC. The deal includes: Wet n’ Wild Splashtown, Houston’s largest waterpark; Wet n’ Wild Phoenix, the largest waterpark in Arizona; Darien Lake near Buffalo, New York; Frontier City, a western theme park in Oklahoma City; and White Water Bay, also near Frontier City. Darien Lake is a resort that has a theme park, a waterpark, campgrounds, a hotel and a amphitheater. "These are all fantastic properties that complement our existing portfolio and provide tremendous added value and cross-visitation opportunities for our extensive membership and season pass base," says Six Flags CEO Jim Reid-Anderson. After the deal closes, Six Flags will become the largest waterpark operator in North America. With Memorial Day weekend coming up and summer around the corner, outdoor-related deals are thriving. For example, retailer Camping World Holdings Inc. (NYSE: CWH) agreed to acquire Cullum & Maxey Camping Center and Middleby Corp. (Nasdaq: MIDD), the world's largest commercial kitchen equipment manufacturer, has agreed to buy Taylor Co. a seller of ice cream dispensing equipment and frozen drink machines from United Technologies for $1 billion.

Chicago Pacific Founders, whose portfolio company Pinnacle Dermatology recently acquired Spencer Dermatology Associates in Indiana, invests in lower middle-market healthcare service providers. Besides its dermatology company, the firm has also built portfolios of retirement living communities and dental practices. CPF, with offices in Chicago and San Francisco, was founded in 2014 by Mary Tolan, who previously founded Accretive Health; Larry Leisure, former operating partner at Kleiner Perkins; and Vance Vanier, former president of Verinata. We asked Tolan for her views on middle-market healthcare services trends and about CPF’s investment approach.

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA) is ready to go to war with Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS). The cable giant confirmed on Tuesday that it may make an offer for a wide swath of 21st Century Fox Inc.’s entertainment assets, a business that Disney has already agreed to buy for roughly $52 billion. Read the fully story: Comcast looks to wrest Fox Entertainment assets from Disney.

Aretex Capital Partners has agreed to acquire Alerian. The target develops and maintains a series of indices for the energy sector and equips investors to make informed decisions about investments in energy infrastructure. Barclays, Ropes & Gray LLP, and Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP are advising Aretex. Financial terms were not disclosed.

L Catterton has invested in Vitamin Packs, a personalized vitamins subscription service. Existing investor BrandProject also invested alongside L Catterton. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Grammer AG has agreed to buy Toledo Molding & Die Inc. from Industrial Opportunity Partners. The target produces air and fluid along with interior automotive parts.

Atlantic Street Capital-backed PLNTF Holdings, an operator of Planet Fitness gyms in Indianapolis, has bought 14 gyms of the same brand in Alabama and Virginia. The deal increases the buyer's portfolio to 29 total locations.

SFW Capital Partners has invested in Swiftpage, a provider of customer relationship management software and related services to small-and-medium sized businesses. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Innovation Works, a venture capital firm that invests in robotics, and Carnegie Mellon University have teamed up to host the 1st Annual AI/Robotics Venture Fair. The Fair, which has attracted more than 100 investors, takes place at Innovation Works' headquarters in Nova Place, a multi-million dollar urban redevelopment of the former Allegheny Center Pittsburgh, on Wed., May 23. Pittsburgh has been identified as one of only a handful of locations leading the country in developing cutting-edge robotics and artificial intelligence technology, and more than 70 of these companies reside in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The Venture Fair is a one-day event to showcase 20 of Pittsburgh’s artificial intelligence and robotics developers.

Axial Networks, Donnelley Financial Solutions, FD Fund Administration, Valuation Research Corp., RSM and scores of other service providers are here to help in our annual, updated Buyer’s Guide. Read the full story: From fund administrators to VDRs, dozens of firms help M&A pros compete.

Madison Capital Funding, a subsidiary of New York Life Insurance Co., has long been a stellar source of capital in the middle market. Since its founding in 2001, the Chicago lender has invested $29.2 billion of net funded commitments in 1,075 transactions with 287 different private equity sponsors. With $9.5 billion in assets under management, Madison invests alongside private equity sponsors and other investors to provide cash-flow based debt products to companies with a minimum $3.5 million in Ebitda. To gain insights on how lenders evaluate potential transactions in today's highly competitive market, we asked Madison's chief underwriting officer Jennifer Cotton to share her thoughts. Cotton oversees Madison's underwriting and portfolio management teams and serves as a member of the Investment Committee as well as the Senior Leadership team. Read the full story here: Abundance of capital drives highly competitive loan process, says Madison Capital's chief underwriter.

Covenant-lite loans are making a comeback, as competition in middle-market lending increases, says Ken Ken, CEO of Churchill Asset Management. Following on the heels of a record year of capital raising, debt financing provider Churchill recently closed a $300 million collateralized loan obligation fund, Churchill Middle Market CLO IV. Churchill is part of Nuveen, the asset management division of TIAA. Overall, Churchill manages more than $4.4 billion in committed capital. Read our Q&A: CLOs are huge draw for income-hungry investors, says Churchill CEO Ken Kencel.

Also on the lender front, Twin Brook Capital Partners grew significantly in 2017, including doubling deal value from the previous year, raising a second fund of $2.3 billion, and building the three-year-old firm into a major source of loans in the lower middle market, earning the firm Mergers & Acquisitions' M&A Mid-Market Award for 2017 Lender of the Year. The Chicago firm is the middle-market direct lending subsidiary of Angelo, Gordon & Co., a $28 billion alternative investment firm focused on credit and real estate investing. Twin Brook was founded in 2014 by seasoned middle-market lenders Trevor Clark and Christopher Williams, who had previously co-founded Madison Capital Funding. Twin Brook announced recently that Williams has stepped 8back from his role to attend to a health issue with an immediate family member. Read our Q&A: Lenders must be active partners, says Twin Brook's Trevor Clark.

Artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, wearable biometrics and precision medicine are transforming dealmaking in the healthcare sector, says Essam Abadir, the CEO of Aspire Ventures, which recently teamed with the Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health network of hospitals to launch a $300 million fund to invest in personalized medical devices and practices. Read our Q&A with Abadir.

Robby Winarta was hired by the Carlyle Group LP (Nasdaq: CG) as a managing director. Previously with Credit Suisse, Winarta will focus on investments in Indonesia.

Ezequiel Navar has joined JMP Group LLC (NYSE: JMP) as a managing director where he will focus on the healthcare information technology sector. Navar was most recently the head of healthcare information technology at H2C Securities where he executed M&A, equity and debt transactions.

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.

Demitri Diakantonis

Demitri Diakantonis

Demitri Diakantonis joined SourceMedia in 2015 and serves as Managing Editor of Mergers & Acquisitions. He covers all aspects of middle-market deamaking, with a focus on strategic buyers and the consumer and retail sectors, and writes The Buyside column.