Today’s active M&A market demands a robust set of tools and services. Enter service providers, which include offerings that help private equity firms administer funds, such as Accordion, led by Nick Leopard (pictured). The service providers featured in Mergers & Acquisitions‘ updated annual dealmaker’s guide help get transactions done. Axial allows buyers and investors to source deals within specific criteria across financials, geography, keywords and more than 20,000 verticals and sub-sectors. Axial is exclusively focused on lower middle market, change of control, debt, minority equity and co-investment transactions involving companies with $5 million to $150 million in revenue and $500,000 to $20 million in Ebitda. “There is no ability to ‘post’ or ‘list’ a deal publicly on Axial,” says Lehrman. “This has led to Axial being a trusted resource for investment bankers, resulting in higher-quality member deal activity over the last 12 months.” For the full guide, read: Dealmaker’s guide to service providers: Accordion, Axial, BluWave, Frazier & Deeter

DEAL NEWS
Blackstone Group (NYSE: BX) and CPPIB are taking the owner of Legoland theme parks private in a $6.1 billion buyout, seeking to invest more in worldwide expansion and attract new fans of the plastic bricks in markets such as China. Read the full story by Bloomberg News: Blackstone backs Legoland’s global push with buyout.

HealthEquity Inc. (Nasdaq: HQY) is acquring consumer benefits firm WageWorks Inc. (NYSE: WAGE) for about $2 billion. Advisors to HealthEquity include: Perella Weinberg, Wells Fargo and Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP. Advisors to WageWorks include: Evercore (NYSE: EVR) and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

Lightyear Capital and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan are buying consumer lender Lendmark Financial Services from the Blackstone Group (NYSE: BX). Advisors to the sellers include: Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Goldman Sachs & Co. (NYSE: GS), Barclays Capital Inc., Citigroup Global Markets Inc. and RBC Capital Markets LLC. Advisors to Lightyear and OTPP include: Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, Stephens and Torys.

Alpine Investors has invested in Northeast Ohio Eye Surgeons and Ohio Eye Care Consultants.

Arlington Capital Partners has acquired a majority stake in medical devices maker Riverpoint Medical. The deal is Arlington’s first out of its recently raised $1.7 billion fund.

Centerbridge Partners is buying packaging products maker Solidus Solutions from Aurelius Equity Opportunities for about $375 million.

Incline Equity Partners has acquired Brown & Joseph, a provider of commercial accounts receivable management services primarily for the insurance sector.

Valet Living, which offers home-related amenity services has purchased Torch Fitness, a provider of fitness, wellness and nutritional programs to the multi-family community sector.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is buying Bombardier‘s regional jet program for up to $750 million. Morrison & Foerster is advising Mitsubishi.

For more deal announcements see, Weekly wrap: AbbVie, Eldorado, L Catterton.

For more on PE fundraising, see PE fundraising scorecard: Advent, KKR, NewSpring, Vista.

PEOPLE MOVES
Scot Berg has joined investment bank Baird as a managing director where he is focusing on the industrials sector. He was most recently with RBC Capital Markets.

Brian Sanland was hired by private equity firm Edgewater Capital Partners to help the firm find investment opportunities in the life sciences sector. Scanland previously founded M&A and consulting Freedom Bioscience Partners.

Scott Levine and Christine O’Connell were hired by law firm King & Spalding as partners where they are concentrating on the real estate sector. They were both previously with Arnold & Porter.

FEATURED CONTENT
Alex Rodriguez is best known as the New York Yankees star who hit 696 home runs over the course of his 22-year baseball career, but today he’s making a name for himself as an investor as the founder and CEO of A-Rod Corp. One recent example: While serving as a guest judge on CNBC’s Shark Tank, Rodriguez backed Ice Shaker, an insulated bottle maker founded by former National Football League fullback Chris Gronkowski. Rodriguez talked about his life off the field as a savvy investor since his 20’s as the keynote speaker at EisnerAmper’s 4th annual Alternative Investment Summit at the The Museum of Modern Art on June 19. Among the topics discussed in a conversation led by Charles Weinstein, CEO of EisnerAmper: Rodriguez’ childhood as the son of a single mom; his investment thesis, which shares much with other middle-market investors; how he’s helping singer/dancer/actress Jennifer Lopez (to whom he became engaged in March) transition her business initiatives from licensing her brands to owning them; and how one day he just might buy a baseball team. Read the full story: A-Rod talks Ice Shaker, NRG eSports, J. Lo & maybe buying a baseball team.

Activity and urgency characterize the current dealmaking environment, say investment bankers and other M&A advisors interviewed by Mergers & Acquisitions. After a record-breaking 2018, forecasts for 2019 remain bullish. Advisors point to a lot of cash that must be deployed by strategic buyers and private equity firms alike; a healthy U.S. economy; and low interest rates. Competition for high-quality targets has never been more intense, especially for technology providers, they report, which means sellers are commanding high prices. It all adds up to a seller’s market. A mood of urgency prevails, as dealmakers seek to close deals quickly, while conditions remain favorable. The advisors interviewed for this story say they don’t see signs of a recession this year; however they are closely monitoring bellwethers, including corporate earnings, wage pressure, global supply chains and slowdowns abroad. They are recommending that clients be prepared for an economic slowdown in the next two years. Specialization is the name of the game, and investment bankers advise clients to seek targets with business-model stability, limited cyclical exposure and a recurring revenue business model. Technology, business services, healthcare, consumer and manufacturing are among the most promising sectors. Read the story: 8 M&A advisors urge closing deals now, while economy stays strong.

Excelled. Innovated. Inspired. That’s what the eight winners of Mergers & Acquisitions’ 12th Annual M&A Mid-Market Awards did in 2018. Our awards honor the leading dealmakers and deals that set the standard for transactions in the middle market. In addition to Nike, award winners include: Fortive, TA Associates, the Riverside Co., Harris Williams, Monroe Capital, Goodwin and Luminate Capital Partners’ Hollie Haynes. Read our full coverage: Meet the winners of the M&A Mid-Market Awards: Nike, Fortive, TA, Harris Williams.

Mergers & Acquisitions has named 36 leaders the 2019 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A, including Kainos Capital’s Sarah Bradley, Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors’ Nishita Cummings and Pelham S2K Managers’ Venita Fields. All 36 are outstanding dealmakers both inside and outside of their firms. This year, we asked the featured dealmakers to tell their own stories through Q&As, including their advice for women. Related: Meet the 2019 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A.

EVENTS
Exponent Women hosts the Annual Exchange, which brings a trusted network of women dealmakers together for a focused day of robust content and networking, at Second in New York, on July 11. The Exchange provides attendees with opportunities to establish new connections, reinforce existing ones and absorb timely and relevant knowledge from industry leaders.

The Women’s Connection Golf Clinic & Networking event takes place on July 17 at the Granite Links Golf Club in Quincy, Massachussets. The event is being hosted by ACG Boston.

ACG Seattle hosts the Northwest Middle Market Growth Conference at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle on July 25.

ACG New York’s summer dealmaking conference takes place at Gurney’s Star Island Resort & Marina in Montauk, NY, July 31-Aug.1.

The Great Lakes ACG Capital Connection is being held at the Westin Book Cadillac Detroit Hotel in Detroit from Sept. 4-6.

M&A East takes place at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia from Oct. 21-23.