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Mid-Market Deal of the Year: Vestar Capital Partners and Edward Don & Co

Mid-Market Deal of the Year: Vestar Capital Partners and Edward Don & Co
By Gregg Gethard
Published April 1, 2024

Vestar Capital Partners' exit of foodservice equipment and services distributor Edward Don & Co was a rarity this past year, not just because of its sterling financial results, but also because it was acquired by a publicly traded strategic investor. According to sources familiar with the deal, wholesale food distributor Sysco acquired Edward Don for $1 billion, reflective of more than 3.5x growth in the company's enterprise value. What made Vestar's investment in Edward Don so successful and unique?

Find a family business

Vestar managing director and co-head of investment Nikhil Bhat says the manager took the steps to first identify a well-known company, followed by providing resources to Edward Don's well-regarded CEO, Steve Don, whose family started the company in 1921.

Essentially, Vestar found a successful family business and kept it a family business, and then focused on growth after its investment in 2017.

According to Vestar, it acquired Edward Don through Vestar Capital Partners VI, which closed on $814 million in 2013.

"We want to invest in management teams who know how to grow their business. We provide them with more capital and our know-how to allow them to do what they want to do," says Rob Rosner, Founding Partner at Vestar.

Edward Don's motto of "Everything but the food" reflects its expertise in providing supplies like glassware, plates, tablecloths and more to its customer base of restaurants, hotels, healthcare facilities and similar entities.

According to Bhat, Edward Don showed strong organic growth due to Steve Don's skills as an operator, in addition to his great relationships with customers and vendors, which continued after Vestar's investment.

But the company lacked a presence in certain regions of the country, allowing it to target add-on companies in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere on the West Coast.

The company had not grown through acquisitions before Vestar's investment, Bhat says.

"We and Steve saw Edward Don as a strong platform for M&A. The company already had deep relationships with smaller family-owned businesses in the industry. We came in with capital and a playbook for analyzing and structuring accretive acquisitions," Bhat says.

Add-ons during Vestar's ownership included Myers Restaurant Supply, Shervan Colonel Equipment, Atlanta Fixture & Sales Co and Smith & Greene.

Pandemic effects

Every company even remotely connected to the foodservices industry faced fierce headwinds during the 2020 pandemic and resulting social shutdown. Bhat says Edward Don didn't just manage to survive the pandemic, but its quick pivoting set it up for future success.

"Performance during the pandemic was a testament to management's operational and strategic leadership. Demand significantly declined as people stopped dining indoors. Customers stopped buying glasses and plates, shifting their spend to hand sanitizer and takeout containers," Bhat says.

Understanding this shift allowed Edward Don to still deliver for its customers while protecting its balance sheet and cashflow, avoiding having to do a "slash and burn" to maintain stability and preserving its capital, according to Bhat.

Then once dining restrictions were lifted nationwide, Edward Don had enough dry powder and capacity to meet the overnight demand from its customers.

"Management's careful planning gave Edward Don the ability to be aggressive when customer demand was coming back. The company was able to overservice and overdeliver by investing ahead of the curve. If we had waited a few months longer, the company might have missed a big part of the resurgence," Bhat says.

Edward Don was also in place to weather the struggle to find drivers and warehouse operators once restrictions were lifted - along with the increased wages potential employees were seeking for their efforts.

Bhat says the company's strong culture, while keeping an eye on adding efficiencies for its existing labor pool and infrastructure, helped Edward Don attract talent.

"The company could have pulled back more on hiring. But we believe that would have been penny wise and pound foolish. You might protect EBITDA for a month or a quarter, but that doesn't help your customers. Edward Don took a long-term view and knew it needed to maintain its investment in people and logistics infrastructure to service its customers," Bhat says.

Vestar certainly helped the company grow its business - sources familiar with Edward Don say the firm's EBITDA grew nearly 3x.

But, more importantly, Vestar changed the company's story. This new narrative brought it to the attention of Sysco - a $39.8 billion giant in the adjacent food distribution industry.

"We've always endeavored that, in addition to growing earnings, we want to create a before-and-after picture for our investments. By the time we were looking to exit, there was a clear change in the profile of the company prior to our involvement," Bhat says.

Vestar tri-color logomark.

Vestar Capital Partners Announces Promotions

NEW YORKFeb. 1, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- Vestar Capital Partners, a leading U.S. middle-market private equity firm, today announced the promotions of Wilson Orr and Ian Singleton from Vice Presidents to Principals, and Alyssa Stropoli from Senior Associate to Vice President.

"Vestar has a long history of homegrown talent and promoting from within, and we're proud to uphold that tradition with the promotions of Wilson, Ian and Alyssa," said Dan O'Connell, Founder and CEO of Vestar. "Wilson and Ian have played an integral role in sourcing our investments and working closely with our companies' management teams, while Alyssa has added depth to our IR team. We congratulate each of them on their promotions and look forward to their continued contributions to the firm."

Mr. Orr joined Vestar in 2017 as an Associate and supports the firm's investments across its core sectors, with a particular focus on healthcare. Prior to Vestar, he was an Analyst in the Diversified Industries Investment Banking Group at J.P. Morgan. Mr. Orr graduated summa cum laude from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a Robertson Scholar, and received his BS in Business Administration from the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Mr. Singleton joined Vestar in 2019 as an Associate and also supports the firm's investments across its core sectors, with a particular focus on consumer. He previously was an Associate at Ares Management's U.S. Direct Lending Group. He began his career in the Financial Sponsors Group at Citigroup. Mr. Singleton graduated magna cum laude from Duke University with a B.A. in Psychology, a minor in Economics, and a certificate in Markets and Management Studies.

Ms. Stropoli joined Vestar in 2022 as a Senior Associate and is a member of the firm's Investor Relations team. Prior to joining Vestar, she was an Associate in Investor Relations at BC Partners, and previously she was an Associate on BlackRock's High Yield Portfolio Management team. Ms. Stropoli holds a BSc in Civil Engineering from Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, City College, and is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).

Circana Announces Intent to Acquire Golf Industry’s Leading Independent Market Research Firm, Golf Datatech

CHICAGO and KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Jan. 23, 2024 Circana™, formerly IRI and The NPD Group, today announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire Golf Datatech, the golf industry’s leading independent market research firm. Golf Datatech tracks and delivers insights into golf retail sales, inventory, pricing, distribution, and consumer behavior across the U.S., U.K., Sweden, France, and Germany. Golf Datatech’s highly complementary, valuable data assets and talented team of industry experts will augment Circana’s existing sports tracking expertise and insights, broadening Circana’s coverage of the U.S. golf market to include all major channels of retail sales, including golf specialty, green grass shops, mass retailers, sporting goods, and e-commerce.

“We are thrilled to enter into this agreement with Golf Datatech to expand Circana’s sports tracking business with deeper insights into the golf market,” said Kirk Perry, president and chief executive officer of Circana. “Golf Datatech’s market leadership, combined with Circana’s existing capabilities, will provide clients with a more comprehensive view of the market and unmatched insights to drive their growth. This acquisition supports our strategy of providing clients with a complete view of the customer, store, and wallet across categories and geographies.”

Tom Stine, a founder and one of the three principal partners at Golf Datatech, said, “We are pleased and excited to join the talented team at Circana, advancing a shared vision of accurate and timely insights that empower companies to make informed decisions. When Golf Datatech was founded in 1995, there was very little on-/off-course data available. Over the last nearly 30 years, we have carved out a unique place in the global golf industry providing unbiased insights, and we look forward to bringing our expertise and proven track record of success to Circana to be able to offer more valuable insights and solutions to clients around the world.”

The closing of the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to be completed by March 2024. Under the terms of the agreement, Golf Datatech will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Circana. Circana plans to integrate Golf Datatech’s data assets into their leading Liquid Data® technology platform.

Tech24 Partners with Total Tech Corporation

GREENVILLE, SC, January 15, 2024Tech24, a national industry leader in commercial foodservice equipment repair and maintenance, has partnered with Total Tech Corporation, a regional leader in commercial kitchen equipment, refrigeration, and HVAC repair.

Based in Silverdale, Pennsylvania, Total Tech Corporation primarily serves restaurants across the Lehigh Valley, Eastern Pennsylvania, and the entire Tri-State area, including New Jersey, New York, Maryland, and Delaware. Total Tech Corporation offers installation and repairs to all makes of commercial foodservice, refrigeration, HVAC, and plumbing equipment.

“We continue to invest in the Northeast region and believe Total Tech Corporation brings a wide range of capabilities to better serve our shared customers across several important Northeast markets,” said Tech24’s CEO, Dan Rodstrom. “We are excited to welcome Total Tech Corporation into the Tech24 family.”

“I am excited as we embark on this new chapter, said Larry Gray, President of Total Tech Corporation. “We are filled with enthusiasm about the prospects that lie ahead. Combining our resources, expertise, and support to further our commitment to our employees, innovation, and customer satisfaction. By joining forces with Tech24, we are confident that we will be able to expand our capabilities, reach new markets, and deliver even greater value to our customers.”

360training Acquires Mortgage Educators and Compliance -- Expanding Expertise in Real Estate and Mortgage Lending

AUSTIN, TexasJan. 8, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- 360training.com, Inc. (360), a prominent online regulated training provider specializing in financial services education, has successfully acquired Mortgage Educators and Compliance (MEC), a leading mortgage lending training company. This strategic move aims to bolster 360's comprehensive offerings in the financial services sector and further solidify its position as a frontrunner in providing top-tier educational resources for professionals in the industry.

360's CEO, Tom Anderson, expressed enthusiasm about the acquisition, stating, "We are thrilled to welcome MEC into the 360training family. This collaboration allows us to broaden our educational portfolio and provide an even more comprehensive suite of specialized training programs tailored to meet the evolving needs of financial services professionals."

This acquisition represents a significant milestone for 360, marking a dedicated commitment to enhancing the quality and scope of education available to financial services professionals, specifically within real estate and mortgage, in the United States. The union between 360 and MEC leverages the strengths of both entities, combining their expertise, resources, and experience to offer an unparalleled array of training programs and resources.

"With the acquisition of MEC, we underscore our dedication to pioneering online education tailored specifically for the lending industry. This integration bolsters our comprehensive training solutions, enriching our offerings for professionals navigating the complexities of financial services. By combining expertise and resources, we aim to elevate our ability to equip individuals and businesses within the lending sector with specialized knowledge and tools, empowering them to navigate the intricate landscape of financial services with confidence and excellence." – Samantha Montalbano, COO of 360training

With this acquisition, 360 is set to expand its course catalog, incorporating a diverse range of mortgage lending training modules, covering crucial topics such as lending regulations, underwriting practices, loan origination, and more. These offerings will equip professionals with the necessary knowledge and skills to navigate the dynamic landscape of the mortgage industry successfully.

About Mortgage Educators & Compliance
As a leader and recognized brand for over 14 years, Mortgage Educators & Compliance (MEC) is headquartered in American Fork, UT. MEC has been approved by the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System (NMLS) since 2009, teaching tens of thousands of students nationwide every year. As a leading CE provider, MEC specializes in online mortgage and financial services professional development, offering state-approved continuing education for Mortgage Loan Originators so they can provide services in the communities they serve. Their highly-rated course curriculum is maintained by national industry experts with years of experience in their fields. These courses are structured to provide learners with a top-tier education in a format that's both convenient and adaptable to their schedule.

Beyond delivering high-quality content, they provide comprehensive access to state licensing regulations and keep learners updated with the latest industry insights, ensuring a well-rounded educational experience.

About 360training
Established in 1997, 360training.com, Inc. is a trusted leader specializing in comprehensive online training solutions for individuals and businesses across various industries, including financial services, real estate, healthcare, and environmental health and safety. With innovative technology and a commitment to quality education, they offer accredited courses fostering safe and healthy communities. 360 has delivered over 11 million training plans across multiple brands, including MeditecAgentCampusVanEdOSHAcampusOSHA.comHard Hat TrainingAdvanceOnline SolutionsACLSHIPAA ExamsTIPS, and Learn2Serve. Please visit www.360training.com or our social media accounts on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn to learn more.

Tech24 Partners with 1-2-3 Equipment Solutions

GREENVILLE, SC, January 9, 2024Tech24, a national industry leader in commercial foodservice equipment repair and maintenance, has partnered with 1-2-3 Equipment Solutions, a provider of commercial HVAC, refrigeration and kitchen equipment maintenance, service and installation.

Based in Chester, Virginia, 1-2-3 Equipment Solutions primarily serves restaurant and hospitality customers across Virginia and North Carolina by offering maintenance/repair and installation/replacement of HVAC, refrigeration, and hot-side kitchen equipment. The company also provides temporary cold storage solutions for planned maintenance and unplanned emergencies.

“1-2-3 Equipment Solutions takes care of its employees and customers, values we share at Tech24,” said Tech24 CEO, Dan Rodstrom. “We are excited to welcome 1-2-3 Equipment Solutions to our growing family of companies and look forward to working with Michael Hess and his team by investing in our employees and servicing our customers.”

“I am excited to join the Tech24 family and look forward to growing the 1-2-3 Equipment Solutions brand throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast region,” Michael Hess, President of 1-2-3 Equipment Solutions, added. “We have grown significantly in recent years, and I know Tech24 will provide access to the resources we need to supercharge that growth in the years to come while maintaining high-quality service for our partners. This is an exciting next step for the 1-2-3 Team, its Partners, and the history of our company. It’s going to be a fun ride!”

Accanto Health logo.

Accanto Health Appoints Dr. Tom Britton as Chief Executive Officer

ST. PAUL, Minn., Jan. 08, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Accanto Health, a national leader in eating disorder specialty care and behavioral health services, announced the appointment of veteran behavioral health executive Dr. Tom Britton as CEO this week. Accanto Health encompasses renowned brands: The Emily Program, Veritas Collaborative, and Gather Behavioral Health.

"As the awareness of eating disorders and the need for quality, compassionate care continues to grow, it's vital to have our next leader be someone who understands multi-site behavioral health care services and appreciates the unique needs of clients, families, and staff," said Dirk Miller, Executive Chair of Accanto Health and Founder of The Emily Program. "Tom's passion for behavioral health and his commitment to excellence in care and walking beside those we serve make him the right fit to lead us forward."

Britton expressed his excitement about joining Accanto Health, stating, “It is an incredible honor and privilege to join Accanto Health in the role of CEO. The merger of The Emily Program and Veritas Collaborative as well as the launch of Gather Behavioral Health has provided individuals in this country living with eating disorders comprehensive access to care and the tools necessary to enjoy a life of recovery.”

With over 30 years in the behavioral health field, Britton’s extensive clinical and leadership history aligns with Accanto Health’s longstanding commitment to delivering compassionate, evidence-based clinical and business processes, contributing to a high standard of care and positive client experience across its expanding program offerings. Previously, Britton served as CEO of American Addiction Centers and as President and CEO of Gateway Foundation. His introduction to eating disorders occurred earlier in his career when he held operational leadership positions in the eating disorders division of CRC Health, now part of Acadia Healthcare.

On a personal level, he feels passionate about behavioral health in part due to his own experience with addiction and recovery. “I believe all people hold the innate potential to improve their life and the lives of those around them,” said Britton. “I will work tirelessly with the Accanto Team to grow and expand our vision of helping all in need. We are uniquely positioned to meet the evolving needs of those we serve.”

About Accanto Health
Accanto Health, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, is a national healthcare company specializing in eating disorders and related disorders. The company includes leading eating disorder treatment brands: The Emily Program and Veritas Collaborative, and a new outpatient group practice, Gather Behavioral Health. Recognizing that one size does not fit all, Accanto Health programs provide exceptional, individualized care for children, adolescents, and adults with eating disorders and other behavioral health conditions in a gender-diverse and inclusive environment. Services incorporate an array of individual, group, and family therapy, nutrition, psychiatry, medical care, yoga, education, and support services. The company offers services across a full continuum of care, including inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and outpatient. If you or someone you know is struggling, call 888-364-5977 or visit accanto.com.

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Vestar Capital Partners Completes Sale of Edward Don & Company to Sysco

NEW YORKDec. 4, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- Vestar Capital Partners ("Vestar"), a leading U.S. middle-market private equity firm, announced that it has completed the sale of Edward Don & Co. ("DON" or "the Company"), a leading distributor of foodservice equipment and supplies, to Sysco Corporation. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

"It's been a privilege to support Steve Don and DON management to help them achieve their growth objectives," said Rob Rosner, Founding Partner at Vestar. "When we originally invested in the business, we believed we were backing one of the strongest management teams and one of the highest-quality platforms in the foodservice equipment & supplies distribution space. That thesis has proven out many times over the years, and this successful outcome is yet another proof point."

"We're incredibly proud of what DON was able to accomplish during our partnership," added Nikhil Bhat, Co-Head of Investments at Vestar. "The Company continued its long track record of successful organic growth and established itself as a premier platform in its industry, all while navigating a disruptive global pandemic. We're grateful to the DON team for their leadership and hard work over our nearly 7-year partnership together in delivering this terrific outcome."

Over the course of Vestar's investment, DON expanded its footprint, secured significant new customers, and meaningfully grew revenue and earnings. DON will operate as a standalone specialty division within Sysco, and DON CEO and President Steve Don will continue to manage the business alongside DON's leadership team.

"Vestar was a great partner to DON during a period of both unprecedented growth, but also unprecedented pandemic-related challenges, for our Company," said Mr. Don. "We appreciate Vestar's support of our customer-focused, service-oriented, integrated growth strategy over the past years, and look forward to continuing to deliver for all DON stakeholders in our exciting next chapter with Sysco."

J.P. Morgan Securities LLC and William Blair served as joint lead financial advisors to Edward Don & Company and Vestar. Kirkland & Ellis LLP served as legal advisor to Edward Don & Company and Vestar.

Nox Health logo

Nox Health Appoints Emily Buxton Taylor as Chief Financial & Operating Officer

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (November 14, 2023) – Nox Health, a global sleep health leader in sleep diagnostics and value-based sleep care management, today announced that it has named Emily Buxton Taylor as Chief Financial & Operating Officer.

In this role, Emily will assume direct responsibility for finance across Nox Health and additionally support operations that bridge Nox Health business units. With deep operational and financial expertise, Emily has more than 20 years of experience in healthcare and technology in both the public and private sectors.

“With a unique combination of financial acumen and solid operational expertise, Emily will drive performance across the company and help systematically execute and drive success of our strategies company-wide,” said Sigurjon (SK) Kristjansson, CEO of Nox Health. “Emily is a welcome addition to the Nox team as we scale and grow our company to support our range of clients, from health plan sponsors to global sleep healthcare providers.”

“I am delighted to join Nox Health and have been impressed with the team’s passion forsleep,” said Emily Buxton Taylor, Chief Financial and Operating Officer, Nox Health. “Given thestrong connection between sleep and chronic disease, I look forward to working to advanceone of Nox Health’s primary goals – to make sleep a foundational component of every benefitplan so that members and employees can improve their health.”
Arnar Thorkelsson, previous CFO of Nox Health, will now focus on supporting Nox Medical,the company’s medical technology division.

Kristjansson continued: “Arnar has been an incredible partner in developing the company to this stage, and we have grown to a point where each business unit requires a full-time executive to support our business. With Emily as our global leader, located in the US, and Arnar present in Iceland, we have a dynamic, experienced team that will help take Nox to the next level.”

Emily most recently served as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Wondr Health, a company that offers complete weight and stress management programs. Previously, Emily held numerous financial positions, including Chief Financial Officer at Paradigm Tax and National HME, Chief Accounting Officer at Northstar Anesthesia, and Chief Financial Officer at Orthofix Medical, Inc. She is a certified public accountant and an active member of Financial Executives International (FEI).

Vestar Capital Partners Named to Inc.'s 2023 List of Founder-Friendly Investors

NEW YORKNov. 2, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Vestar Capital Partners, a leading U.S. private equity firm, today announced that it has been named to Inc.'s 2023 Founder-Friendly Investors list honoring the private equity, venture capital, and debt firms with the best track records of successfully backing entrepreneurs.

The list recognizes firms with which entrepreneurs can collaborate while gaining the financial and strategic support they need to help accelerate growth. The firms on the Inc. list have successful track records of remaining actively involved with the businesses in which they invest.

Vestar has invested over $3 billion in more than 27 founder- and family-owned companies since its inception in 1988, and its current portfolio consists of 12 founder-led businesses across Consumer, Business & Technology Services and Healthcare.

"We are proud of our 35+ year track record of partnering with founders, continuing their family legacy, and sharing a commitment to their values," said Dan O'Connell, Founder and CEO of Vestar. "We appreciate Inc.'s recognition, and we are grateful for the opportunity to offer our operational expertise, long-term perspectives, and passion for building better businesses to our founder partners."

"Now more than ever, founder-led companies need financing partners that offer guidance, expertise, and understanding—not just capital. These are the private equity, venture capital, and debt firms that have founders' backs when it comes to accelerating growth," says Scott Omelianuk, editor-in-chief of Inc. Business Media.

Inc. compiled its list by surveying founders who have worked with private equity, venture capital, and debt firms about their experiences partnering with the firms and examining data on how portfolio companies have grown during these partnerships.

To see this year's complete list, go to: https://www.inc.com/founder-friendly-investors/2023

About Vestar Capital Partners
Vestar Capital Partners is a leading U.S. middle-market private equity firm specializing in management buyouts and growth capital investments. Vestar invests and collaborates with incumbent management teams and private owners to build long-term enterprise value, with a focus on Consumer, Business & Technology Services and Healthcare. Since inception in 1988, Vestar funds have invested $11 billion in 92 companies – as well as more than 200 add-on acquisitions – with a total value of approximately $50 billion. For more information on Vestar, please visit www.vestarcapital.com.