Recently an article in Middle Market Growth magazine caught the attention of Tom Staszak, one of our managing directors. Entitled “CREO Capital Finds Its Mojo with Food Focus - Bet on Underperformer Leads to Budding Portfolio,” the article did a good job of highlighting how finding the right private equity firm (a.k.a. PEG, which is short for private equity group) can be a win-win scenario for the ownership of a privately held company.
But what really was meaningful to him was that one of the acquisitions discussed in the piece was a company that Staszak and Generational Equity represented in the market in 2008!
Before we dive into the details, it will be helpful to many of you if we define a few terms. First, this transaction was a good example of what we call a “management buyout” (MBO), which we define as:
A leveraged buyout where the existing management team is brought in as shareholders.
In most cases, ownership of the company is bought out by the acquiring equity firm and non-owner managers are retained and are given equity in the new company. This enables the PEG to keep talent and provides non-owner managers the incentive to stay because they are now co-owners in the new entity.
In addition, post-acquisition, the equity firm usually provides growth capital and quite often takes an active role with the new entity by providing marketing expertise, financial acumen, and leadership that the old organization did not have access to.
Over time the equity firm will typically “bolt on” or “add on” other synergistic businesses that will be combined to form a much larger, growing entity.
This is exactly the scenario described in the article mentioned in Middle Market Growth. In 2008, Generational Equity – working for the owner of Treasure Valley Foods (TVF) – negotiated a management buyout of TVF.
TVF was founded in 1994 as a producer of french fries. Over time it expanded to a full line of frozen food products and to other related foods. Frozen products included twice-baked potatotes, potato wedges, hash browns, fruits, vegetables, chicken, and juice. A variety of non-frozen foods were produced as well, including animal crackers, popcorn, beef stroganoff, salad dressing, and drink mixes.
At the time of the acquisition, TVF’s was generating around $37 million in revenue. This is what CREO Capital, the acquiring equity firm, said about the transaction in the Idaho Statesman in 2008:
"The acquisition of Treasure Valley is further evidence of our commitment to a proactive strategy of integrating and growing a national network of leading middle market food companies," said Nick Sternberg, a partner at CREO Capital Partners. "Treasure Valley's outstanding cache of products makes it an ideal addition to the venerable brands in CREO Capital Partners' portfolio."
Since the deal closed, the new co-owners of TVF and CREO Capital have done a fantastic job of growing the brand and the business. According to Middle Market Growth magazine:
“‘(CREO’s founders) had a passion for food and it was a good fit,’ says Gary Lim, a former Treasure Valley co-owner and president.
Terms of the transaction included keeping Lim on board as CEO. By focusing on marketing and leveraging synergies among the different brands, Treasure Valley has since grown sales to $80 million yearly.”
In addition to helping TVF grow and expand, CREO Capital has also been committed to developing a sizable platform company in the food industry:
“CREO created Flagship Food Group in 2012 to house its growing brand portfolio under one roof, a move that included appointing Lim CEO of Flagship North America.
The new platform also allowed the rollout of another fruitful venture, Flagship Food Logistics, which arranges transport of Flagship’s products along with those of other food companies, including dairy giant Stonyfield Farms. The division offers economies of scale and brings in additional revenue.
Flagship now operates eight proprietary brands with some 400 products … It sells to roughly 100 customers, among them Fortune 500 companies, upscale national retail chains and mass retailers.”
The really interesting news is that the entire entity, Flagship Food Group, is now generating roughly $300 million in revenue – which is really amazing when you consider that CREO Capital’s original purchase of a frozen meatball producer in 2005, Oh Boy!, was actually losing money!
According to Tom Staszak, the Generational Equity managing director that worked on the deal, “The deal we negotiated on the behalf of TVF was truly a win-win scenario. I felt confident at the time that CREO and the new owners of TVF would form a great team, but over the past six years they have surpassed my expectations and have done a great job in creating a brand and a company together.”
CREO Capital Partners, formed in 2005, has “acquired controlling and minority interests in 16 companies, with over a dozen in the broader food, beverage, and consumer sectors.” The firm “focuses on the middle market, where we partner with excellent management teams to build long term, fundamental value for our investors, partners, and employees.”
This was clearly the case with TVF and the related synergistic acquisitions and startups CREO Capital has made since 2008.
Of course not every private equity transaction performs as well as the TVF/CREO Capital combination. And success just doesn’t happen; it takes hard work, teamwork, a willingness to think strategically, and the ability to create and market products in a competitive industry.
The deal teams with Generational Equity work hard for our clients to find synergistic relationships like this. We aren’t always as successful as this, but more often than not, given our team’s experience, skill, and diligence, we are very successful in finding optimal buyers and structuring deals for our clients. Even though not every privately held middle-market company is a logical target for a PEG, having an M&A advisor like Generational Equity evaluating and then marketing your company will give you a better chance of finding the best buyer for your business.
Carl Doerksen is the Director of Corporate Development at Generational Equity.
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I would like to thank you and your firm, Generational Equity, for being our valued advisors in our journey.Bil MacLeslie, CEO, ipHouse
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The process was much more involved than I expected and your help, experience and advice was a big factor in making the negotiations go as smoothly as possible.Terry D. Wickman, President, Keytroller
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Greetings Mike. Thank you for the captivating and compelling presentation you made at the Phoenix presentation last week. Over many years in business yours was the most informative and well-presented presentation, on any subject, that I have ever attended! Your energy and enthusiasm combined with your concise and captivating support of your positions with easily understood examples and data was compelling.Pete L.
I am pleased that I was able to work with Andrew Byrd throughout this experience. From the first meeting we had in Minneapolis I felt that I was in good hands. His knowledge and expertise is second to none. He guided the process consistently throughout. I feel lucky that I was pared with Andrew and could not be happier that I chose Generational Equity to handle this major life event. Thank you Andrew and GenEq for everything!Eric Erlandson, Owner, Action Fastenings, Inc.
Dear Chris and Andre, I just wanted to say thanks for all your help. Even though this process was not an easy one, it was comforting to know that I had a capable team standing beside me. You made me feel like we were almost your only client or at least the most important one. Thanks again, and I will recommend your service in the future.Shenille Engelhart, Owner – CLS Technology
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I quickly recognized that Don was working for Sharpe Mixers above all else, and held our interests above others.Jay Dinnison, Owner of Sharpe Mixers
We are extremely pleased with the way Generational Equity handled the sale of our company. Your associates, Tom and Chris, did an outstanding job of getting us (me) through the process.Michael J Polarek, President, Paragon Packaging
I need to say an immense thank you to Don Ho for his stellar work ethic, attention to detail, and tireless effort. Also thank you to the whole crew at GE! Without you, Don could not do such a phenomenal job. We were shooting for closing and funding before the end of 2020, due to the uncertainty of the political landscape and taxes. I am happy to report we closed last week and will be funding tomorrow.Dr. Caty J. Catron PhD, RN, VA-BC – Owner, Vic The Picc, LLC
We knew it would be a difficult task to have someone really understand our business and our market, prior to researching a possible buyer, so it was imperative that we found someone of your caliber, with definite proven experience in this area.Rick Nowak, President/CEO, Kurz Electric Solutions, Inc.
Bruce and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Generational Equity for assigning Musa Jagne to our transaction. In Bruce’s words, “Musa did one hell of a job for us!”Karen S. Williams, CFO, BW Manufacturing
We were happy to see the interest in our company and what we cherished has not just a valuable company but an important company to the communities we served in.Larry Moore, Owner, A Company Portable Restrooms
The help you provided us during each step of this process made us feel very comfortable and confident we were selecting the right approach to transition our Company.Andy Graham, Vice President, Modern Heating & Plumbing
I must say that I have never worked with a more driven, competent and focused individual as Don Ho.Jay Dinnison, Owner of Sharpe Mixers
We will highly recommend Generational Equity and Musa Jagne to any business owner about to embark on the same process.Karen S. Williams, CFO, BW Manufacturing
T.D., thank you so much! You are a great leader! I love how you are using your gifts and talents to better others. You are clearly a GREAT COACH! This 3 day session undoubtedly changed the future of our business, and very well may have been the sole catalyst to save my company, my health and my marriage! A genuine “thank you” from the bottom of my heart.Bryan D. Horn, Owner, Over Under Clothing
Your wisdom and experience were invaluable to me during this once-in-a-lifetime transaction.Ralph Noblin, President of Noblin & Associates
We thank you Eric and Generational Equity making our dream come true.Larry Moore, Owner, A Company Portable Restrooms
Generational Equity’s assistance was invaluable in compiling and marketing our business.Bil MacLeslie, CEO, ipHouse
Tom Staszak is one of the most professional people I have dealt with in my last forty years of business. You’ve got a great group of people and you have built a truly professional organization.Michael J Polarek, President, Paragon Packaging
We are very happy with the end result, and are very happy to be able to move forward with all of our future growth plans.Rick Nowak, President/CEO, Kurz Electric Solutions, Inc.
Michael worked tirelessly, He followed every lead meticulously and urgently to make sure nothing was missed.Robert Evans, President and CEO of Mealtracker Dietary Software
I wanted to write you a quick letter to express our appreciation and our delight on the outcome of helping us through the process of our recent sale. We are very happy with the end result, and are very happy to be able to move forward with all of our future growth plans.Terry D. Wickman, President, Keytroller
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