M&A wrap: Shopify, TH Lee, Hitachi, Asbury, Warner Music, Providence, AEI, Gryphon, CVC

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Advances in robotic technology are making it possible for retail businesses to complete more complex tasks at higher speeds and with improved control and outcomes, driving deal activity in the sector, as we discover in the fourth part of Mergers & Acquisitions’ 7-part series, Retail Tech M&A. E-commerce company Shopify Inc. (NYSE: SHOP) acquired 6 River Systems for $450 million. 6 River Systems uses cloud-based software and mobile robots called “Chuck” that assist employees with inventory replenishment, picking, sorting and packing. Thomas H. Lee Partners is buying a majority stake in robot technology company AutoStore from EQT. AutoStore makes robots that retrieve products in warehouses to increase efficiency, and to cater to consumer demands to get deliveries faster. The robotics sector is attracting buyers outside the U.S. also. Japanese technology company Hitachi is buying robots manufacturer JR Automation Technologies from PE firm Crestview Partners for about $1.4 billion. JR Automation builds production lines and logistics systems that deploy industrial robots for the consumer and food and beverage industries. The acquisition expands Hitachi’s presence in the U.S. robotics industry. Check out our full coverage: Retail Tech M&A: 7 Technologies Driving Change.

Note: Due to event coverage and special projects, this week our M&A wrap column will run only on Tues., Dec. 10 and Thurs. Dec. 12. We'll resume daily editions of the M&A wrap column on Mon. Dec. 16. Look for our announcement of the 2020 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A coming up soon.

DEAL NEWS
Car dealership company Asbury Automotive Group Inc. (NYSE: ABG) is buying luxury auto dealer group Park Place Dealerships for $1 billion. BoFa Securities and Jones Day are advising Asbury. The Presidio Group and Locke Lord are advising Park Place.

Warner Music Group and Providence Equity Partners are investing in music catalog firm Tempo Music Investments. The latter was formed with $650 in equity with most of that coming from Providence. Tempo is working with Influence Media Partners to look for investment opportunities.

Altaris Capital Partners is buying 3M Co.'s (NYSE: MMM) drug delivery business for $650 million. The target works with pharmaceutical and biotech companies in developing and producing pharamecutical products. Morgan Stanley and Cleary Gottlieb & Hamilton are advising 3M.

AE Industrial Partners-backed Belcan has acquired Base2 Solutions, a provider of software and engineering consulting services to the aerospace and defense sector. Kirkland & Ellis and PwC advised Belcan. Eversheds Sutherland and Mesirow Financial advised the sellers.

Gryphon Investors has made a majority investment in veterninary support organization Heartland Veterinary Partners. Houlihan Lokey (NYSE: HLI) and Kirkland & Ellis advised Gryphon. William Blair and Winston & Strawn advised Heartland. Varagon Capital Partners provided financing.

CVC has acquired Oakley Capital's stake in WebPros Group, a web hosting and automation software provider. Arma Partners advised Oakley.

Wind Point Partners-backed The Kleinfelder Group Inc. has acquired the geotechnical, environmental and materials testing division of Advantage Engineers LLC. Winston & Strawn advised Kleinfelder. Bengur Bryan and McNees Law Firm advised Advantage.

One Equity Partners has made a minority investment in Nexion SpA. The target offers garage equipment, diagnostics, and advanced driver assistance systems.

SolarWinds (NYSE: SWI) has acquired VividCortex, a provider of database software.

HighGrove Cos. has invested in driver education services company All Star Driver Education.

PEOPLE MOVES
David Blum has joined Angelo, Gordon as a managing director where he is focusing commercial real estate loan investments. Blum was previously with GTIS Debt Capital Management.

Jared Kelly was hired by law firm Reed Smith as a partner. Kelly was most recently with White & Case, and concentrates on public and private financings.

David Kelman was hired by Stifel where he is overseeing U.S. cannabis investment banking. Kelman was previously with Viridian Capital Advisors.

Daniel McAvoy was hired by law firm Polsinelli as a shareholder. McAvoy focuses on closed-end investment funds, corporate finance, securities regulation and M&A.

Simon Lonergan was promoted to managing director at private equity firm Behrman Capital.

FEATURED CONTENT
With the holiday shopping season in full swing, all eyes are on the retail industry, which is undergoing transformational changes. Mergers & Acquisitions examines the impact of 7 technologies on M&A in the retail sector. Read the whole series:

Overview: Retail Tech M&A: 7 Technologies Driving Change
Retail Tech M&A #1: Nike, McDonald's, PayPal, add customization, IoT
Retail Tech M&A #2: Why Walmart and other retailers are buying artificial intelligence startups
Retail Tech M&A #3: Amazon leads race to build fulfillment centers
Retail Tech M&A #4: Do robots fill orders faster?
Retail Tech M&A #5: Voice recognition gives retailers more ways to communicate
Retail Tech M&A #6: Data improves customer service
Retail Tech M&A #7: Demand for convenience drives growth in mobile ordering

During the holiday season, Mergers & Acquisitions is covering the philanthropic and volunteer initiatives underway in the private equity industry. 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. Read our full coverage: Private equity gives back: Vista's Robert F. Smith, Clearlake's José E. Feliciano, Riverside employees.

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.

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
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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