American Banker has announced the 2019 edition of the Most Powerful Women in Banking, with the top spot going to Cathy Bessant, chief operations and technology officer, Bank of America. Bessant’s day job — managing 95,000 employees in 35 countries and a $14 billion annual budget — would be enough to keep most people busy. But Bessant has undertaken major initiatives outside the office as well, including starting the Council on the Responsible Use of Artificial Intelligence with Harvard University and working with the North Tryon Advisory Committee on efforts to achieve economic mobility for disadvantaged people in Charlotte, North Carolina, where BofA is headquartered. This year, Bessant has stepped up her involvement in yet another major initiative: helping people with disabilities. She is driven, at least in part, by her experience with family members with disabilities. Her former mother-in-law was a paraplegic, and her brother, with whom she is very close, sustained severe injuries from a car crash in 2013. “I’m not shy at all about saying, ‘How can I help you? What can I do to make this easier for you?’ ” Bessant said. “If I get the question wrong, my earnestness comes through. I don’t always get the language right, but I’m not afraid to ask.” She is the executive sponsor for the BofA’s internal Disability Advocacy Network, which supports people with disabilities and their families. DAN has grown under her leadership to more than 7,300 members and 17 active chapters worldwide. In 2018, for the second year in a row, BofA earned a perfect score of 100 percent on the Disability Equality Index, which is run by two nonprofits, the American Association of People with Disabilities and Disability:In. American Banker’s annual project also honors the Most Powerful Women in Finance, with the No. 1 ranking going to Mary Callahan Erdoes, CEO, Asset and Wealth Management, J.P. Morgan. Erdoes is widely considered a potential successor to JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. American Banker is published by SourceMedia, owner of Mergers & Acquisitions.

In a related project, at Mergers & Acquisitions, we’ve begun work on the 2020 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A. The deadline for nominations is Oct. 14. Last year, we honored 36 women, including Marilyn Adler (Medley Capital), Jennifer Cotton (Madison Capital Funding), Nishita Cummings (Kayne Anderson), Venita Fields (Pelham S2K), Jeri Harman (Avante Mezzanine Partners), Pam Hendrickson (the Riverside Co.), Gretchen Perkins (Huron Capital) and Trisha Renner (Baird). Who will make it on this year’s list? To be considered, candidates must be women who are outstanding dealmakers both inside and outside of their firms. Evidence of influence in the broader M&A industry is essential. When nominating a candidate, please explain how she outperforms her colleagues at her firm and in the industry. Please provide examples of deals she has led, initiatives she has launched and other instances that show evidence of her influence in the middle market. An important guide to what we’re looking for can be found in the dealmakers we’ve honored in previous years. See profiles of, and Q&As with, past honorees here.


Not everyone lost out with the collapse of 178-year-old Thomas Cook Group plc that put 21,000 jobs at risk and left travelers around the world stranded. Speculators including Sona Asset Management and XAIA Investment GmbH stand to earn as much as $250 million from the bankruptcy. They invested in derivatives that pay out when a company defaults. The fate of those securities was at the heart of the battle over whether Thomas Cook lived or died. Thomas Cook will be the latest of several big payouts this year for hedge funds and traders who bought these so-called credit-default swaps. Read the full story by Bloomberg News: Thomas Cook collapse sets up hedge fund windfall.

Aptiv (NYSE: APTV) and Hyundai Motor Group will be forming a self-driving car joint venture that will be valued at $4 billion. The two compnies will each own a 50 percent stake in the venture. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP is advising Aptiv.

Stone-Goff Partners has invested in Walker Sands, a public relations and digital marketing agency for business-to-business technology companies. Advisors to Walker Sands include: Palazzo and Aronberg Goldgehn. The advisor to Stone-Goff is Fredrikson & Byron. Financing was provided by TCF Capital.

Topspin Partners has acquired beauty products provider Japonesque from San Francisco Equity Partners. Financo advised the target.

For more deal announcements, see Weekly wrap: Grupo Nutresa, Mosaic, U-C Coatings.

For more on fundraising, see PE fundraising scorecard: Brightstar, Capital Z, Insight Partners.

Geoff Baird has joined private equity firm LLR Partners as a senior managing director where he is leading the firm’s value creation team. He was previously with Tailwind Capital.

Shea Goggin was hired by investment bank Houlihan Lokey (NYSE: HLI) as a managing director and head of the firm’s U.S. private funds group. Goggin was most recently with UBS.

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. Most recently, the New York firm announced on Sept. 11 the final close of its latest global real estate fund. 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, on the occasion of his new book, What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence, published by Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster, and released on Sept. 17. Schwarzman, who is speaking at the Economic Club of New York on Sept. 18, shared his perspective on the private equity model, its resilience during recessions and how the industry has evolved over three decades. Read the full story: “Complete control” is the beauty of private equity, says Blackstone’s Stephen A. Schwarzman.

Bank M&A has been soaring, creating the perfect backdrop for Piper Jaffray’s announced acquisition of Sandler O’Neill & Partners LP. “There has been a lot of consolidation in the bank space,” Piper Jaffray CEO Chad Abraham told Mergers & Acquisitions. “But there are still 5,000 banks, and we expect the pace of consolidation to continue.” Piper Jaffray is determined to be the market leader in all the industries it does business in. The Minneapolis-based boutique investment bank currently dominates some of the sectors it serves, especially healthcare. With the acquisition of New York-based Sandler the renamed firm Piper Sandler will instantly become a leading investment bank in financial services, a sector Piper has sought to expand in for several years. For analysis of the deal, see Counting on bank M&A: Why Piper Jaffray bought Sandler O’Neill.

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 sellers’ market. Read the story: 8 M&A advisors urge closing deals now, while economy stays strong.

The New York Yankees are in first place in the American League East division and have one of the best overall records in Major League Baseball. Alex Rodriguez is best known as the former 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 Leaguefullback Chris Gronkowski. Rodriguez talked about his life off the field at EisnerAmper’s 4th annual Alternative Investment Summit. Among the topics discussed: 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.

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.

The Virginia Capital Conference is being held on Oct. 2 at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia.

Exponent Women is hosting a fall rooftop networking session at RSM in New York on Oct. 7.

M&A East is taking place at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia Oct. 22-23.

ACG Charlotte is hosting Deal Crawl at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina Nov. 6-7.

Third Annual Women in Alternative Investments Career Forum is taking place at the New York Hilton on Nov. 8.

ACG New York is hosting Middle Market Week in New York from Nov. 11-15.