M&A wrap: Audax Group, Geoffrey Rehnert, Marc Wolpow, Center Rock Capital, Perdue Farms

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Middle-market private equity firm Audax Group has raised its sixth fund at $3.5 billion. The firm, which has offices in Boston and San Francisco, invests in businesses that have up to $50 million in Ebitda and $400 million in enterprise value. Among its sectors focus are: business services, consumer, healthcare, industrials and technology, media, telecom. 2018 is an active year for Audax . Some of the firm's deals include: Audax-backed Active Day bought Sunrise Miami Adult Day Care Center and two Minnesota adult care centers from Sunrise Community and Millennium Adult Day Care; purchased Revolution Dancewear, a supplier of dance recital costumes, competition costumes, footwear, and dancewear, from Incline Equity Partners; acquired Restaurant Equipment Maintenance Corp., an equipment parts and repair company for the convenience store and restaurant sectors; bought Blue Sky Industries, an aersospace and defense parts supplier; and Audax-backed Imperial Dade bought Kran and PCA Industrial and Sikes Paper. Audax was founded in 1999 by Geoffrey Rehnert and Marc Wolpow and has since raised $23 billion in PE and private debt capital. Before co-founding Audax, Rehnert helped start Bain Capital, where he established the firm's middle market-focused deal generation and relationship development efforts. Wolpow was previously a managing director at Bain Capital, where he co-founded the firm’s structured debt business, Bain Capital Credit.

Industrials-focused private equity firm Center Rock Capital Partners LP has raised its first fund at $580 million. The firm concentrates on the industrial manufacturing, distribution and services sectors in businesses that have up to $500 million in revenue. Center Rock was founded in 2017 by Ian Kirson, who was previously with Wynnchurch Capital. Center Rock has offices in Chicago and Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. For ongoing coverage of private equity fundraising activities, see PE fundraising scorecard: Lee Equity and Vista Equity.

It’s a sign of the times that 98-year-old Perdue Farms Inc. is looking at selling non-meat protein products alongside its signature chickens and turkeys. “Our vision is to be the most trusted name in premium protein,” chairman Jim Perdue said. "It doesn’t say premium meat protein, just premium protein. That’s where consumers are going.” The closely held company is looking at an “all of the above” strategy, eyeing smaller startup companies, pure vegan options and those that combine meat, plant-based proteins and vegetables, Perdue said. He declined to identify possible targets, but said the company is exploring multiple options. Read the full story: Perdue explores non-meat options, as plant protein appetite grows.

Deal news
Aurobindo has acquired the U.S. dermatology and oral solid business of Sandoz Inc. from Novartis for $1 billion. Jefferies advised Aurobindo.

Edgewater Capital Partners has bought Wafer Holding Co., a provider of silicon wafer reclaim services. Genesis Capital advised Pure Wafer.

Francisco Partners has invested in ByBox, a maker of smart locker technology. The deal, which values the target at £221 million ($257 million), marks an exit for mid-market PE firm LDC.

Genstar Capital-backed Bracket has completed its merger with clinical research technology company CRF Health.

Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) has completed its acquisition of industrial technology firm Boyd Corp. from Genstar.

H.I.G Capital has acquired Recochem from Swander Pace Capital. Recochem produces branded and private-label coolant, windshied wash fluid and diesel exhaust fluids. Sawaya Partners and Stikeman Elliott advised Recochem and Swander Pace.

Solace Capital Partners has acquired a majority stake in Fabcon Holding Corp., a manufacturer of concrete wall panels, from Platinum Equity. The latter remains an investor in Fabcon.

SS&C Technologies Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq: SSNC), a provider of financial services software, has agreed to acquire Intralinks Holdings Inc. from Siris Capital Group for $1.5 billion. Siris Capital senior associate Afar Ibraheem Warren is featured in Mergers & Acquisitions' 11 Rising Stars of PE.

People Moves
Christopher Auld, most recently with Jefferies, has joined Stifel Financial Corp. (NYSE: SF) as a managing director and head of leveraged finance. Henry Lang has also joined Stifel as a managing director. Lang was previously with Jefferies as well. Andrew Collina was hired by Stifel where he will be assisting the firm in growing its financial sponsor coverage initiatives.

Brian Ashin was hired by King & Spalding as a partner. Previously with Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, Ashin represents private equity firms and private companies on financing.

James Cross has joined K&L Gates as a partner. Most recently with Reed Smith, Cross focuses on private equity and M&A.

Mark Hootnick was hired by PJ Solomon as a managing director in the firm's debt advisory and restructuring practice. Hootnick was most recently with Millstein & Co.

Paul Ingram was hired by Porter Hedges as a partner, where he focuses on the energy sector. Hedges was previously with American Energy Partners and Chesapeake Energy Corp.

Jonathan Lulu was hired by Jaguar Growth Partners as chief revenue officer, where he will be responsible for developing, managing, and coordinating the firm's relationships with current and prospective partners, co-investors, and other strategic capital sources. Lulu was most recently with American Realty Advisors.

Christina Marshall has joined Haynes and Boone as a partner where she focuses on mid-market M&A. Marshall was most recently an executive vice president and general counsel at investment group Chalak Mitra Group of Cos.

Featured content
"Companies that are inclusive and also diverse tend to outperform companies that aren't," says investor Lorine Pendleton of Pipeline Angels and Portfolia in this video interview shot at Exponent Exchange, a gathering of 200 female dealmakers. Pendleton looks to invest in companies led by diverse entrepreneurs, which she defines as entrepreneurs of color, LGBT entrepreneurs, women, veterans, and disabled entrepreneurs. She also backs companies that have products and services that cater to those markets. "People think that they are niche markets, but they're actually growing in terms of spending dollars and market size." Pendleton spoke on a panel moderated by Mergers & Acquisitions editor-in-chief Mary Kathleen Flynn at Exponent Exchange. For more, see Exponent drew 200 women dealmakers to event featuring Sallie Krawcheck. Watch the full video: M&A Insights: Inclusion investing.

The energy industry is teeming with M&A activity, as companies seek to improve operations. Hubbell and Ingersoll Rand are among the strategic buyers. Private equity firms acquiring include AE Industrial Partners, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice and Genstar Capital. Companies in the energy industry are focused on improving operational efficiencies and analytical capabilities. The issues are urgent for oil and gas companies, because depressed prices mean profits are hard to come by, says Caroline Blitzer Phillips, who advises clients on energy deals as a partner at law firm Vinson & Elkins. They are also essential for renewable energy, which “has been quite expensive in some cases, because the infrastructure is not in place.” From providers of “smart grids” to developers of energy management software, Mergers & Acquisitions looks at recently acquired targets. Read the full story: 14 smart energy deals.

While some of the firms that were instrumental in launching the middle market back in the 1980s and 1990s have long since been shuttered, their legacy lives on. They proved to be excellent training grounds for many successful dealmakers. Heller Financial certainly belongs in this category, and Mergers & Acquisitionsfeatured its alumni a few years ago. Another firm with a far reach is Holleb & Coff, a Chicago law firm that closed in 2000, after a nearly 50-year run. Many of the lawyers who worked at Holleb & Coff back in the day are making a significant impact on M&A today, including: John Corvino, general counsel to the Chicago White Sox; · Brian Kerwin, chair of Duane Morris’ global corporate practice; Theodore (Ted) Koenig, the founder and CEO of Monroe Capital; Kenneth Serota, president of Hu-Friedy Manufacturing Co., and Michelle Warner, general counsel, USG Corp. (NYSE: US). Read the full story: Holleb & Coff alumni: Where are they now?

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