With 251 completed transactions, October proved the best month for middle-market M&A in 2013. Launching the critical fourth quarter, October is a vital month for making, keeping and building connections.

"October brings exceptional networking and deal flow opportunities for the middle-market, both here with our U.S. chapter events and abroad with EuroGrowth in London," says ACG chairman Douglass Tatum. "Whether you're an investment banker on the East Coast, a financial professional sourcing energy deals in the Midwest or a private equity firm looking for an add-on in the EU, attendees know that they'll see real results when they attend an ACG event. As we look to the end of 2014, now is the time to capitalize on the M&A momentum that has built throughout the summer. ACG chapter events give dealmakers the forum to join in on this impressive amount of deal volume."

The three ACG conferences provide a plethora of opportunities to connect with other dealmakers: M&A East at the Philadelphia Convention Center on Oct. 7th and 8th; EuroGrowth 2014 at the Grange St. Paul's Hotel on Oct. 15th and 16th; and the 15th Annual Midwest ACG Capital Connection at McCormick Place in Chicago on Oct. 20th and 21st.

M&A East 2014

Dealmakers headed to Philadelphia for M&A East can expect a few changes from the 2013 conference. Previously, the conference held a combined opening reception and private equity marketplace event.

"This year we decided to separate them to really maximize the networking time," says Jan Monster, senior director of corporate development at Teleflex Inc. and co-chair of M&A East.

The conference will also have more tables and chairs available for one-on-one meetings. "It's amazing how many conferences you go to and try to meet with someone, and there's nowhere to do it," says Christian Bullitt, the other co-chair of M&A East, and a principal at Philadelphia private equity firm LLR Partners.

Aside from the networking highlights, dealmakers will also hear a keynote speech from Billy Beane (pictured), general manager of baseball team the Oakland A's and subject of the popular book and more-popular movie "Moneyball."

Bullitt expects dealmakers to chat about the high cost of buying companies, private equity firms that are selling "everything that isn't nailed down and is halfway healthy" and what is keeping founder-owned businesses from selling in the current market. Monster is expecting to hear chatter about the credit markets.

Attendees can find each other through the conference's mobile application - M&A East 2014. The app provides information and search features that allow dealmakers to schedule meetings more easily. About 1,400 people are expected at the conference.

Dealmakers have the option to tee off at a daytime golf outing at the Riverton Country Club on Oct. 7. Day One includes DealSource, where private equity firms and investment banks to meet in pre-scheduled meetings, plus a corporate buyers' workshop aimed at corporate development officers and corporate executives. That workshop will be focused on negotiations.

"Given that negotiations are essential to what all of us do in daily life, particularly in M&A, that subject is always very well received," Monster says.

General Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, will give the opening keynote speech on Oct. 7. Following the keynote, dealmakers can head to the grand welcome reception, which is notably separate from the private equity marketplace, a shift from last year's programming.

Attendees for M&A East include dealmakers in the Boston to Washington D.C. corridor, plus a handful Midwest and west coast dealmakers. At last year's M&A East, private equity firms made up 28 percent of attendees.

Corporate buyers and exhibitors at the private equity marketplace and DealSource may also attend invitation-only dinner. The goal is to give the groups a few more hours of face time, Bullitt says.

Day Two's sessions include a breakfast keynote with Andy Kessler, the author of "Wall Street Meat," "Running Money" and "Eat People," plus panel discussions on exits and cyber threats. Dealmakers will also have the opportunity to visit the DealLounge for networking and meetings.

"People like to network, meet other people, hear what they're doing and compare notes," Monster says.

2014 Midwest ACG Capital Connection

This year at ACG Chicago's 2014 Midwest ACG Capital Connection, dealmakers heading to the windy city should expect to expand their dealflow pipelines.

This year's conference is all about more time, more space, more scheduling and an expanded women's network, says ACG Chicago CEO Craig Miller.

"We've doubled the space where everyone can sit down and actually meet," Miller says.

In addition to expanded meeting space, this year's conference will feature a women's network breakfast on Oct. 21. Women dealmakers will listen to a talk from JoAnn Price, the co-founder of Fairview Capital, a West Hartford, Connecticut-based private equity firm.

Lunchtime on Oct. 21 will also serve as an awards ceremony. At this year's event, Carl Thoma (pictured), the founder of Chicago private equity firm Thoma Bravo LLC, is receiving a lifetime achievement award in dealmaking. Thoma began his career at First Chicago Equity Group, where he helped to build one of the largest private equity firms in the country. Thoma also co-founded GTCR LLC, winner of Mergers & Acquisitions' M&A Mid-Market Private Equity Firm of the Year for 2013.

Thoma Bravo is known for investing in consolidating sectors, and it currently owns security technology group Blue Coat Systems Inc. and software company Deltek Inc. In September, Thoma Bravo agreed to buy Compuware Corp. in a deal valued at $2.5 billion, after activist investor Elliott Management Corp. put pressure on Compuware, a business software provider, to sell.

ACG Chicago generally awards one Lifetime Achievement Award, one Emerging Growth Award and one Corporate Growth award per year.

Michael Binstein, CEO of Gold Standard Enterprises and a former investigative reporter in Washington D.C., will speak at the awards presentations. Binstein is the CEO of the parent company of Binny's Beverage Depot, a chain of liquor stores that has expanded through organic and M&A growth, including the purchase of the store's long-time rival, Sam's Wine & Spirits in 2009. The chain now has 30 stories and has grown more than 100 percent over five years.

Miller expects this year's conference to draw roughly 1,200 attendees, including private equity firms and investment bankers. Aside from PE firms GTCR and Thoma Bravo, Chicago is home to investment banks William Blair, Lincoln International and lenders like Monroe Capital LLC, Madison Capital Funding LLC and NXT Capital LLC.

William Blair won Mergers & Acquisitions' M&A Mid-Market Investment Bank of the Year Award for 2011, while the firm's global head of M&A, Mark Brady, won Mergers & Acquisitions' M&A Mid-Market Dealmaker of the Year Award for 2012. Lincoln International took home the Mergers & Acquisitions M&A Mid-Market Investment Bank of the Year award for 2013; NXT Capital won the Mergers & Acquisitions M&A Mid-Market Lender of the Year award for 2011; and Madison Capital won the same award for 2012.

The conference also has a mobile application that will allow dealmakers to sort through other attendees by profession and sector to enhance networking opportunities.


Spotlight on EuroGrowth 2014

Piero Carbone (pictured), a partner with Duane Morris LLP and chair of EuroGrowth 2014, shared his thoughts on the growth of the conference and what it means to dealmakers.

What traction did you gain at the first EuroGrowth event in 2013?

ACG delivered on its promise of global M&A in 36 hours - in one comprehensive event. Last year ACG, brought together nearly 200 PE and M&A professionals from Europe, the U.S. and across the world, including representatives from 10 countries on five continents. It's the most efficient networking event available for those interested in cross-border deals. ACG Capital Connection® was introduced to the European community; it's ACG's signature networking format and an incredibly efficient pipeline for delegates to access sources for capital. ACG is looking forward to an even larger turnout at this year's EuroGrowth on Oct 15th and 16th in London at the Grange St Paul's Hotel. We're still building ACG's presence in Europe and elsewhere outside the U.S., so EuroGrowth 2013 was a great way to show the international dealmaking community what we're all about.

What are the goals for the 2014 EuroGrowth conference?

ACG wants to make EuroGrowth the go-to conference for cross-border M&A, similar to what InterGrowth has become to dealmakers in the U.S. At its core, EuroGrowth is about providing the best possible networking opportunities and giving delegates access to an extensive community of the top middle-market M&A professionals in the world. Future EuroGrowth conferences will look to expand on that and always present a fresh, innovative experience for delegates to connect.

What's new in the format?

The opening reception will feature ACG Capital Connection, creating a fun, relaxed atmosphere to meet other delegates and the participating private equity firms and corporate strategic acquirers. The executive roundtable discussions were a hit last year, so this year these will be expanded, to include various topics including: "Are There Still Opportunities to Invest in China," "Energy Deal Flow in Europe," "Sourcing Health Care Deals in the EU," "Cybersecurity Issues in Middle-Market Companies," "European Business Expanding into the U.S." and more.

How has ACG chapter membership outside the U.S. grown over the last year?

More firms are realizing that cross-border deals are huge sources of investment opportunity. ACG's mission of driving middle-market growth is a global one - from the U.S. to Europe and emerging markets such as China, Africa and South America. As more people in the international PE and M&A communities become aware of ACG and benefits of membership - including real results in their networking and deal flow - our membership outside the U.S. will continue to expand.

What dealmaking trends has ACG seen in Europe over the last year?

In 2013, deal flow in the middle market seemed to remain stable or possibly increased slightly; however deal valuations did not appear to move up significantly. In addition to proprietary deals available to general partners in markets where companies that are good candidates for private equity ownership has not been fully penetrated, a wave of PE-owned assets acquired during the pre-recession boom years were ready for exit. That set up opportunities for sponsor-to-sponsor transactions or initial public offerings as equity capital markets opened up again.

Closing deals was challenging and required more time and creativity than in previous years, as pricing expectations from sellers and sophisticated buyers continued to diverge. The combination of good public market performance and rising valuations-due to the robust debt markets, stiff competition and large amounts of un-invested PE capital-made sellers more reluctant to sell at attractive prices for buyers.

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