ACG Nebraska Aims to Pair M&A Specialists with Business Leaders
Reprinted with permission
Midlands Business Journal
by Michelle Leach
April 16, 2010
The Association for Corporate Growth Nebraska’s first meeting was last Thursday, but it’s already poised to surpass a membership goal set for the end of the year, according to ACG Nebraska President Brian Gilbreath.
“The goal was to have 100 members,” said Gilbreath, who in his “day job” works as vice president of M&A support firm Merrill DataSite Latin America. “We certainly think we’ll have that by within the first couple of months — at this rate.”
The rapid rate at which interest in the local branch of this 56-year-old global organization has grown is represented partly through buzz surrounding last week’s inaugural breakfast meeting, held at Happy Hollow Country Club, according to Gilbreath.
“As of last Friday [April 2] we had 127 RSVPs for the breakfast event,” Gilbreath said. “And that’s with limited knowledge that we even exist, so it’s been very well-received.”
The group, which supports middle market M&A dealmakers and business leaders through networking, data access and other resources, has also been very well-received by some of the most-recognized names in Omaha.
For example, the chapter will host meetings most months of the year. Each meeting will include a keynote speaker. The keynote for the first meeting was delivered by Jeff Schmid, the chairman and CEO of Mutual of Omaha Bank.
Director and Chairman Emeritus Walter Scott of Peter Kiewit Sons will give the keynote at the May meeting, while Michael R. McCarthy, founder and partner at McCarthy Capital, is slated for the June event.
In addition to Gilbreath, the chapter’s board of directors includes Vice President E. Wesley Hampp of First Capital Partners and Treasurer Tim J. Wilson of BKD. Brian DeSigio, Christopher Leitner, David Gardels, Pat H. Shiverdecker, Patrick Duffy, Phillip Webb, Roger Wells and Scott A. Schmidt round out the board members.
Up until 10 months ago, Gilbreath had been a member of the Seattle chapter of the ACG. At the time, he was living in the Bay Area but became acquainted with the Seattle chapter through his speaking at events on behalf of his employer and ACG sponsor— Merrill Corp.
While attending the national ACG event known as InterGrowth, Gilbreath, who knew his family was being relocated to Omaha, asked the ACG St. Louis President Keith Rhodes for advice on how to start a new chapter in Nebraska.
Rhodes got Gilbreath in touch with Hampp. From there, the pair worked to identify and reach out to individuals in the M&A realm in Omaha.
Eventually a core group of representatives from companies including First National of Nebraska, BlueCross and BlueShield of Nebraska, Valmont Industries and Husch Blackwell Sanders converged to develop a charter and business plan for the fledgling chapter. The plan was submitted to ACG Global in late January.
“Now we are a recognized chapter,” Gilbreath said.
The chapter’s basic framework includes hosting one meeting most months, held on a Thursday, as well as a golf tournament and holiday party.
After the first three meetings, and once chapter leadership has their fingers on the pulse of the group, ACG Nebraska will look to offer a corporate development track series.
“Where a client or companies will have speakers for half a day or two days,” Gilbreath explained. “It will be about buying and selling companies and problems with valuation, and the lessons learned.”
Aside from additional programming and reaching membership targets, ACG Nebraska would also like to spread its wings outside of the region.
“With the first meeting [there was interest] from folks in Des Moines, Kansas City and Denver but we want to be a magnet for even wider attention,” Gilbreath said.
Gilbreath, whose duties include assisting companies with due diligence for M&A through Merrill Corp’s DataSite division, said his story is a case study for attracting professionals and businesses from outside the region.
A Fremont native, Gilbreath attended college out-of-state and eventually landed a position in the San Francisco Bay area, where he lived for 11 years prior to moving back to Nebraska.
As a “boomerang” professional, Gilbreath said the state is undersold — in terms of a great place to rear children and do business. “The state has a heavy business concentration for a relatively small population size,” he said.
Gilbreath stressed the chapter is not “ACG Omaha;” interest in the group has come from businesses in Lincoln and members are welcome from other portions of the state.
Companies represented by ACG members do not have to be giants, according to Gilbreath.
“We welcome anyone who has an interest in M&A and growing the company organically,” he said. “We want to become a voice for business to attract folks from out of the state.”
In addition to the opportunity for chapter members to build connections with ACG members in other chapters like San Francisco, which can ultimately result in a deal that grows a local business, Gilbreath indicated, he is as much about promoting the state and its quality of life as he is about promoting those involved with M&A activity.
“For the person who lives in Silicon Valley and is starting at a 10-foot-deep backyard, who pays most of his salary to the mortgage, [Nebraska] is a phenomenal place to live, apart from the professional side,” Gilbreath said. “We need to attract site visits, and the more sophisticated we can get our lending and our capital the better environment it’s going to be for folks to come in and do early stage and take risks and put divisions of their company [here].”
The chapter will be recognized by ACG Global at InterGrowth 2010, scheduled for next month in Miami.
ACG’s presence has grown to 12,000 members and 54 chapters worldwide.
Some chapters represent cities, like Charlotte and Calgary; some are like Nebraska and represent states or portions of states (central Texas, Kentucky), while other chapters are representative of entire countries — Holland and France.
Association for Corporate Growth Nebraska
Phone: 333-3062, ext. 202 (for inquiries)
Founded: 1954, with Nebraska chapter formed this year
Services: part of a global community for middle market M&A dealmakers and business leaders focused on accelerating corporate growth; provides access to data and networking opportunities to identify opportunities, capital and information to drive and sustain growth
Goals: Attract at least 100 members by end of year. Spur interest from businesses/investors in “far-flung” geographies (outside of the region), such as Silicon Valley.