M&A East, hosted by ACG Philadelphia and held Oct. 24-25, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, brings together 1,300 top strategic and financial dealmakers and leading middle-market advisors for deal sourcing and networking. Featured speakers include Walter Robb, former CEO Whole Foods, and Chris Voss, former FBI lead hostage negotiator. The Women in Dealmaking session will focus on Women in the Board Room. Mergers & Acquisitions managing editor Demitri Diakantonis conducts video interviews at the conference.

In New York, women dealmakers gather on Oct. 25 for Exponent Evening with Tequila Casa Dragones. The event features tequila sipping and a fireside chat with Casa Dragones CEO Bertha Gonzalez Nieves, conducted by Mergers & Acquisitions editor-in-chief Mary Kathleen Flynn. Nieves co-founded Casa Dragones in 2008 with Bob Pittman, the prolific media executive best known for co-founding MTV Networks. “Casa Dragones is a small batch tequila producer with a passion for crafting extraordinary tequilas one bottle at a time,” as the company’s website puts it. The tequila has become a favorite of connoisseurs, including Oprah Winfrey. At the Exponent event, Nieves will share stories about the company’s founding and growth. Exponent Women is a new group for female dealmakers, and it is gaining momentum quickly, attracting sponsors, including Merrill Corp., Duff & Phelps, J.P. Morgan. For more on the group’s previous event, see Exponent drew 200 women dealmakers to event featuring Sallie Krawcheck.

Deal news
Peak Rock Capital has acquired Pretzels Inc. Headquartered in Bluffton, Indiana, Pretzels provides salty snack products, including traditional, peanut-butter-filled, flavored, seasonal, and gluten-free pretzels, as well as extruded snack products. The acquisition represents Peak Rock's ninth investment in the food and beverage industry. Current investments in the food and beverage industry include: Louisiana Fish Fry, a manufacturer of branded, Louisiana-inspired food products; TNT Crust, a manufacturer of pizza crusts; Sweet Harvest Foods, a producer and distributor of honey; Berner Food & Beverage, a manufacturer of dairy-based shelf-stable snacks and beverages; Diamond Crystal Brands, a manufacturer and distributor of portion control and single serve food and beverage products; and Gold Coast Bakeries, a manufacturer of specialty and organic breads, buns, and rolls.

Clearlake Capital Group LP has made a strategic equity investment in OnShift Inc., a cloud-based human capital management software provider for the long-term post-acute care market, with participation from the Ziegler LinkAge Fund II LP, a PE fund focused on the post-acute and aging marketplace, and existing investor Health Velocity Capital.

Union Capital Associates has invested in Consolidated Burger Holdings LLC , a group of 66 Burger King restaurants in the Southeast.

Featured content
The Miami Dolphins take on the Houston Texans Thursday night in NFL Week 8. Off the field, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady recently teamed with former Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, who is the co-host of ABC’s Good Morning America, to launch a sports media startup called Religion of Sports Media, which has raised $3 million in venture capital funding from CourtsideVC and Advancit Capital. Many NFL players invest in companies. Muhsin Muhammad, who played wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers and the Chicago Bears, is a managing director of private equity firm Axum Capital Partners. Steve Young, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, is a co-founder of private equity firm HGGC. Mergers & Acquisitions takes a look at star players who invest in companies through private equity, venture capital and other investment vehicles.

Canada legalized recreational marijuana on Oct. 17, marking the first G7 nation and the second country in the world to enact full legalization. To investors in the still developing cannabis industry, many believe the market is just now approaching its own inflection point, as it transitions from a black to gray market, characterized by a more attractive risk profile and outsized growth potential. The sticking point is that as a Schedule I drug illegal under federal law, cannabis still presents imposing obstacles for traditional investors, ranging from capital markets that remain inaccessible to uncertainty over bankruptcy proceedings. Yet, ironically, it’s these very same obstacles that make the opportunity so appealing to investors willing to operate in an indefinite gray area to create an ecosystem for a market expected to reach $75 billion in size by 2030. Salveo Capital managing partner Jeffrey Howard shares advice about investing in cannabis in a guest article. Read the full story: How to seize M&A opportunities in marijuana’s gray market.

Mergers & Acquisitions identifies 15 cities as fertile communities for dealmaking. We look at metropolitan areas from Austin (where Michael Dell launched a PC business out of his dorm room back in the day and where thousands gather every year for SXSW) to St. Louis (home of private equity firm Thompson Street Capital Partners). Be sure to check out Milwaukee (with private equity firm Robert W. Baird & Co. and investment bank Clearly Gull) and Minneapolis (home of strategic buyers 3M, Best Buy, General Mills, Hormel and Target). And don’t forget Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles and more. See our list, Dealmaker's guide to 15 cities where M&A thrives.

Why investors like diversity. "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. Watch the full video: M&A Insights: Inclusion investing.

ACG Chicago's Family Office Conference, held Nov. 8, at the Westin Chicago River North, brings deamakers together for a "deep dive" into family offices. The event features a keynote by Laurent Roux, Gallatin Wealth Management, and panels, including: Current State of Family Office Direct & Co-Investment Activity, with Gary Levenstein, Nixon Peabody; and Impact of Millennial Generation on Family Office Investment Strategy including Social Impact Investing, with Adam Lieb and Tony Oommen, Fidelity Family Office Services.

ACG Florida Capital Connection, held Nov. 12-14, at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club, puts “sun and fun” into dealmaking for the middle market, bringing together hundreds of dealmakers. The keynote speaker is Forbes Media CEO Steve Forbes, and the featured speaker for the Women’s Forum is Valerie Crites Fowler, who served as a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service for over 29 years, reaching the rank of Minister Counselor in the Senior Foreign Service.

Middle Market Week, hosted by ACG New York and held Nov. 26-30 at various locations throughout New York, brings together leading global middle-market dealmaking professionals to develop and enhance their dealmaking activities, strengthen their long-term relationships, and provide numerous opportunities for networking all week long. Mark your calendar for the Private Equity Annual Wine Tasting Gala on Nov. 28 at Gotham Hall. The building was constructed in the 1920s as the headquarters of the Greenwich Savings Bank. The gala brings together the leading middle market private equity firms for an evening of fine wines and networking.