What was your most significant deal of the year?
Engineering the sale of our client, Vernon-based C.R. Laurence Co. Inc., to Dublin, Ireland-based CRH plc for $1.3 billion. Besides obtaining a great price that materially exceeded the client’s valuation expectations, we also obtained five-year employment agreements for the senior executive team (ensuring management continuity), 20-year leases for the real estate owned by the principals, a one-year moratorium on staff reduction or facility closure, and a 1% cap on indemnification exposure with a 0.5% “basket.” We brought to the table the perfect strategic fit: a buyer that sold glass (CRH) for a seller that sold architectural hardware for glass (C.R. Laurence).
How do you manage the workload?
Investment banking is notorious for being a 24/7 business. I sleep four to five hours a night. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you tack on another four hours of active time to each and every day.
What trends are you seeing in the sectors that you serve?
We serve entrepreneurs in all industry sectors. We are seeing more serial entrepreneurs, and we’re seeing more successful entrepreneurs selling their businesses in their 20s, then starting another company and doing it all over again, often in five- to 10-year increments. Selling your business is more popular than taking it public today.
Is the work always about getting your clients the most money possible or are other factors just as important?
We exclusively represent entrepreneurs and more than half of our clients are family businesses. Yes, they hire us to get the best deal possible for them and that’s typically defined by entrepreneurs as the highest price. But many times they also want the best new home for their company and its employees, to have greater access to resources – capital, manufacturing and distribution, foreign market presence – that could supercharge the company’s growth potential. They’re also not just concerned about the marquee price but also the terms—how much money goes into their pocket after tax, and stays in there based on how well the reps & warranties and indemnification are negotiated.
How has doing deals changed since you first got into investment banking?
I joined Sutro & Co. in 1981 as an Associate, rose to Vice Chairman & Head of Investment Banking, then resigned to launch Greif & Co. with a couple of colleagues in 1992. Private equity is far more of a factor today and the pace of deal-making has accelerated. There’s also more money—both equity and debt—chasing deals than ever before. Information is also more readily available, and in much greater quantities. But, at Greif & Co., we still do business the old fashioned way—putting our clients’ interests first. We’re a relationship-based investment bank that never loses sight of who the client is. Our mantra is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” by which we mean we treat our clients as if it were our securities we were selling, hence we don’t leave any money on the table. No one will ever accuse us of having a conflict of interest. We’re client-centric investment bankers.
What advice would you give to a young investment banker just starting out today?
Strive to do the absolute best you can for your client. If you take care of your clients, they will take care of you. Always see everything in terms of black and white—once you perceive gray, you’ll start crossing the line and, once you do that, there’s no going back. Your most important asset is your reputation, so protect it at all costs by doing right by your clients—always.