M&A wrap: Hostess, Virgin Atlantic, Albertsons, Kroger, Shopify, TH Lee, Hitachi, Vista, Clearlake, Riverside

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It’s Cyber Monday, and all eyes are on the retail industry. Mergers & Acquisitions is covering many M&A trends in the sector. This week we're featuring the fourth installment of a weekly series on the 7 technologies retailers are investing in: The Internet of Things enables enhanced personalization, such as custom drive-thru menus. Artificial intelligence applications predict customers’ needs. Modern data centers and warehouses fill orders quickly. Robots assist with sorting and packing consumer goods. Voice- and text-assisted technology provides customers with hands-free shopping experiences. Analytics give retailers a better understanding of consumer behavior and habits. Mobile payment processing provides consumers with on-the-go convenience. Check back every week for a new installment.

Albertsons, Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR), Stop & Shop and Walmart (NYSE: WMT) are building automated mini-warehouses and "dark stores" to make deliveries and prepare pickup orders. Mini-warehouses are usually attached to existing stores, and in most cases, "dark stores" are completely separate. Both formats are closed off to customers, and are mostly automated. They use the assistance of robots for speed, save on labor, and get orders out faster. Kroger bought a five percent stake in robotics firm Ocado. Read our full coverage: Smart supermarkets become popular, as Kroger, Walmart add them.

The holiday season is a time of year when many people strive to contribute to their communities. At Mergers & Acquisitions, we're covering the philanthropic and volunteer initiatives underway in the private equity industry. Last year, we published The Big Give, an in-depth look at how private equity firms are contributing. Efforts have continued to flourish, fueled by younger Millennials seeking to build a better future and by mature partners considering the legacy they will leave behind. Many top PE investors are focusing on philanthropy. One recent example is Robert F. Smith. The founder, chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners is contributing $34 million to Morehouse College, an Atlanta-based historically black college or university, or HBCU. Among Morehouse alumni are: civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.; former Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson; and filmmaker Shelton “Spike” Lee. Smith and his family are donating to the new Morehouse College Student Success Program to pay off the loans that students and parents of the Class of 2019 accumulated to fund a Morehouse education. He announced the gift in May, when he received an honorary doctorate from Morehouse. The gift is designed to ease the financial strain on the Class of 2019. More than 400 students, parents, and guardians are expected to benefit. In another recent gift, Clearlake Capital co-founder José E. Feliciano is donating $500,000 to the Toigo Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports education and diversity in financial leadership. Toigo was formed in 1989, and works with more than 250 organizations that are committed to inclusion. Check out our full coverage: Private equity gives back: Vista's Robert F. Smith, Clearlake's José E. Feliciano, Riverside employees.

DEAL NEWS
Hostess Brands Inc. (Nasdaq: TWNK) is buying Voortman Cookies, a maker of wafers and sugar-free cookies, from Swander Pace Capital for $320 million. “Voortman is a leading brand with a well-defined consumer position that complements and extends the growing Hostess portfolio into the growing cookie and better-for-you sweet snacking categories with meaningful runway for future growth,” says Hostess CEO Andy Callahan. Citi, Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP are advising Hostess. Houlihan Lokey (NYSE: HLI) and Stikeman Elliott are advising the sellers.

Richard Branson is working to scrap the planned sale of a stake in Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. and will instead retain control of the airline he founded as it resumes a path for expansion, according to Bloomberg News. Branson is closing in on an agreement to abandon a two-year-old plan to sell part of the airline to Air France-KLM Group. Read the full story by Bloomberg: Richard Branson nears Air France deal to keep control of Virgin Atlantic.

Baxter International Inc. (NYSE: BAX) is acquiring Seprafilm Adhesion Barrier from Sanofi for $350 million. The target makes surgical tools, such as hemostats and sealants.

TZP Group has acquired Norwest Equity Partners' stake in Christy Sports, a snow sports and outdoor furniture retailer. William Blair, PwC and Winston & Strawn advised Christy.

For more deal news, see Weekly wrap: Charles Schwab, Silver Lake, StubHub.

For more fundraising news, see PE fundraising scorecard: Crestview, Crowne Capital, Steele Partners, Valor Equity

PEOPLE MOVES
Edward Lee was hired by Ramond James as a managing director. Lee was previously with Credit Suisse and focuses on private equity.

FEATURED CONTENT
Esteemed M&A attorney Martin (“Marty”) Lipton was honored at a black-tie event hosted by the Institute of International Education at The Pierre in New York on Oct. 30. Called the “the king of M&A,” the co-founder of New York law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, is well known to dealmakers as the architect of the anti-takeover defense strategy known as the “poison pill.” Lipton was awarded the IIE Stephen P. Duggan Award for Mutual Understanding “in recognition of his lifetime of extraordinary achievement and his lasting contribution to international higher education. Read the full story: Martin Lipton, inventor of the “poison pill” anti-takeover defense honored by IIE.

It’s a milestone year for the Blackstone Group Inc. (NYSE: BX), which transitioned from a publicly traded partnership to a corporation on July 1. The New York firm announced the final close of its latest global real estate fund recently. With $20.5 billion of total capital commitments, Blackstone Real Estate Partners IX is the largest real estate fund ever raised. Mergers & Acquisitions spoke with Stephen A. Schwarzman, the firm’s co-founder, chairman and CEO. Read the full story: "Complete control" is the beauty of private equity, says Blackstone's Stephen A. Schwarzman.

The private equity model has held up very well over the decades, continuing to outperform the public markets, even as economic cycles come and go. But the rate of growth has slowed, leading PE firms to seek adjacent areas of business to expand. As PE firms face increased pressure to produce higher returns on their investments, many of them are turning to a familiar area of business: lending. Adams Street Partners, Balance Point Capital, Carlyle and VSS are all actively engaged in lending. Read the full story: Private equity firms are becoming lenders. Here’s why.

Prokanga is a unique recruiting firm that offers full-time and flexible recruiting services. Prokanga is managed by co-founders Jamie Cheney and Lesley Finer (pictured). Mergers & Acquisitions spoke with Finer, who has more than 10 years of recruiting for the finance industry and leads the finance practice at Prokanga. For more, see Why financial services pros need flexibility.

Looking for a glimpse of what’s to come in the private equity industry? Meet Mergers & Acquisitions' 2019 Rising Stars of Private Equity. As the PE industry undergoes a generational shift, and many firm founders retire, it’s well worth getting to know these emerging leaders, including Branford's Austin Collier, Sterling Partners' Shawn Domanic and Summit Partners' Sophia Popova. For profiles and video interviews, see Meet Mergers & Acquisitions' 2019 Rising Stars of Private Equity. For Q&As, see 10 Rising Stars of Private Equity tell their tales.

To celebrate deals, dealmakers and dealmaking firms, Mergers & Acquisitions produces three special reports every year: the M&A Mid-Market Awards; the Rising Stars of Private Equity; and the Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A. For more on the timeline and nomination process for each, see Special reports overview: M&A Mid-Market Awards, Rising Stars, Most Influential Women.

EVENTS
CB Insights hosts The Collective, featuring 30-plus fireside chats, at New World Stages Dec. 10-11. Mergers & Acquisitions editor-in-chief Mary Kathleen Flynn is slated to interview Lance Barton, head of corporate development for dating site developer Match Group.

The Annual AM&AA Winter Conference is taking place in Scottsdale, Arizon fron Jan. 8-10.

Deal Wave is being hosted by ACG Orange Country at the Ritz-Carlton-Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, California on Jan. 9.

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