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The Impact of COVID-19 on Private Equity

2020 has proven to be a true test of business and economic fortitude. The effects of the COVID-19 shutdowns proved to be devastating. The world of private equity was also at the forefront of managing businesses and mitigating losses in the face of great uncertainty. Uncertainty for both the safety of their employees and for ever-changing public policy. We spoke with 4 executives from leading PE firms to gain further insight into how private equity was affected and how their firms responded.

Included in the interview:

Derek McDowell
Managing Partner, Boyne Capital

Murray Rudin
Managing Director, RLH Equity

Dan Phelps
Founder & Managing Director, Salt Creek Capital

Elie Azar
Founder, CEO and Managing Director, White Wolf Capita

Prior to the shutdowns beginning in March, were there any warning signs on the horizon about what was coming? If so, what did you do to start prepping?

Murray:  A few of our portfolio companies may have started noticing some difficulty in selling large new engagements in February, but certainly no major warning signs in advance of the general discovery of the pandemic. Our portfolio is largely comprised of high-end service businesses in the B to B world, such as IT and strategy consulting or clinical trials management.  So, their employees are knowledge workers who in many cases were already working remotely to some extent and thus required a little less preparation for the changes that were soon to come.

Derek: Prior to March, we had internal discussions as we saw international lockdowns start to happen. As early as February, with travel bans and  Chinese lockdowns, we started to experience disruptions importing products from China. That discussion went along the lines of, “Well, what would happen if this would extend to other parts of the globe?” Unfortunately, we did not have the foresight to see the level of the disruptions that were to occur in the U. S..

As we evaluated our portfolio, we asked, “Where are we vulnerable? What should we do?”.

Dan: Being based near San Francisco, one of the early hotspots, we saw quickly that COVID would be serious and impactful, but I doubt anyone truly understood how damaging to our economy it would become. Anytime a major shock occurs, liquidity is one of the most important aspects to consider, so our initial preparation was to ensure all of our portfolio companies had ample cash. We accomplished that by drawing down lines of credit, an action our lenders supported. We also took steps to reduce working capital by slowing inventory orders and aggressively collecting AR, and we curtailed CapEx spending. Each company created a detailed cash flow forecast to manage liquidity carefully. We communicated frequently and clearly with lenders, and asked some to defer cash flow sweeps, or in some cases to defer loan payments, which also enabled us to build cash positions. The Treasury was helpful by deferring the tax payment deadline until July 15, as well. Overall, we wanted our companies to be prepared by having as much liquidity as possible.

“Anytime a major shock occurs, liquidity is one of the most important aspects to consider, so our initial preparation was to ensure all of our portfolio companies had ample cash.”

– Dan Phelps

Elie: I believe it was in November or December of 2019 when we first started hearing of this new virus. But back then it was still far away from here and mainly impacting Wuhan, China. Then in late January / early February you saw this virus really spread globally with the first known case announced in the US in January 2020. All of us here at White Wolf started watching these developments very closely and with great concern, but it was still early and I think no one really knew what was about to hit us. In March, we had actually asked our people to start working from home a week or so before the shut downs occurred. We’ve been very fortunate that while business has been somewhat impacted, our portfolio companies have generally fared just fine. Our portfolio is primarily focused on manufacturing and service companies where the end markets are defensive in nature (think defense, military, government, and infrastructure). We are either manufacturing widgets or providing highly sought-after skilled labor to those end markets. I would also say that starting around early-2019, we pivoted to being more defensive and conservative in how deals are structured and financed. For example, we started reducing leverage ratios substantially on new deals back in early 2019 and only focused on those businesses that we thought would do well or better than others in a downturn. We did that not because we had a crystal ball that told us a global pandemic was about to hit us hard, but because we were starting to get really concerned about the frothy valuations and the amount of leverage that was out there. We wanted to approach 2020 and 2021 with great caution and so we ended up being more prepared to face this pandemic because of that mindset.

What was the first major challenge to overcome and how did you compensate/respond?

Murray: Our first priority was ensuring sufficient portfolio company liquidity. That’s foundational – if you don’t have enough money to operate, nothing else really matters. Liquidity planning was particularly challenging in this circumstance because you didn’t really know the duration and the magnitude of the downturn since it was the first pandemic of our lifetime. There really wasn’t any precedent to look back at to estimate how long would elapse until there was a solution and an economic recovery.

Fortunately, one of the key tenets of our investment philosophy is low leverage in our portfolio companies. That allows them to have a greater financial cushion against a wide range of potential setbacks. While we don’t necessarily anticipate a pandemic, Murphy’s Law is always out there. A conservative capital structure gives our companies more room to maneuver in tough times.

Derek: The first major challenge that we faced was the public and market place response of accelerating sense of fear or panic. Friday, the 13th of March, had a number of issues converging: a number of sporting events and public events were canceled, many stores were closed and the economy practically stopped. I happened to be traveling that week for an event and the hotel basically cleared out. It went from “sold out” to basically 40% occupancy and then nearly empty. Reservations for the coming week were canceled. So, our first response to the rapid change of situation was to start a comprehensive process over communication with our portfolio companies.

We established active support system for the senior leadership of each company to communicate and to ensure they have a dedicated Boyne team member to reach out to as it was a cascading effect, where our CEOs were addressing employee, supplier and customer issues simultaneously. It was important that we were there to be a calming influence for our portfolio companies and say, “Hey, guys we’re gonna get through this”. We didn’t know how serious this situation was going to be nor how long it would last, , so we prioritized liquidity. We needed to make certain that the companies had the liquidity to support payroll and other commitments. We worked with the management teams to make sure they had enough liquidity on their on their balance sheet to satisfy what we saw as near-term requirements, and we wanted to make sure everybody had at least two months of payroll available. Since our portfolio was not aggressively leveraged at the outset, we were able to have flexibility and received generally strong support from our lenders.

“Liquidity planning was particularly challenging in this circumstance because you didn’t really know the duration and the magnitude of the downturn since it was the first pandemic of our lifetime.”

– Murray Rudin

Dan: The health and safety of our employees was an immediate concern, so we began gathering as much info as possible from the CDC, state and local public health officials on how to ensure safe work environments. For some companies, that meant closing and sending employees home. For others, it meant social distancing with staggered shifts and modified work rules, etc.

To communicate best practices among all of our CEO’s, we initiated a weekly conference call with all CEO’s on March 19th. We continue to host that call every Friday to discuss health, safety, government support and operational issues and how to manage through the pandemic. This became an excellent forum for good ideas to flow quickly among our CEO’s, and provided a peer support network, while SCC identified topics requiring research that could be done for the benefit of all CEO’s.

One of the early challenges for our companies was supply chain disruption, especially for our companies with international suppliers and/or customers. Lead times stretched, parts availability became spotty and shipping reliability were all issues. Many of our CEO’s became involved in sourcing efforts to identify backup supply sources and focused more closely on production planning to solve supply chain related issues, which continued throughout Q2.

Elie: Our first major challenge was to navigate through the chaos and uncertainty that ensued from the shutdowns. Our first priority was, and remains, ensuring the safety of our employees across all locations. We responded quickly by rolling out social distancing guidelines and best practices, communicating official local requirements to folks, procuring protective gear and sanitizers as well as providing employees with flexibility to work remotely. To say it was challenging is an understatement, but thankfully, together with our employees, we made it through the uncertainty and overcame the challenges.

Of your portfolio companies, which industry sectors were impacted the most? Were any forced to close?

Murray: Because our investment portfolio consists exclusively of B2B enterprises, we had less exposure to the immediate impacts of the pandemic. Fortunately, we don’t have any investments in consumer-facing businesses such as restaurants, hospitality, or travel.  Only one or two of our portfolio companies will be needing any additional capital from RLH because of the pandemic and even those enterprises will need only modest amounts of funding.  None of our portfolio companies are at risk of closing.

Derek: The global impact was varied and each company faced its own unique challenges. On the more extreme side, our dentistry business, had to close operations at the end of March,  with the exception of emergency procedures.  The good news is that fortunately they were able to return to pre-crisis levels by May.   I give  a lot of credit to our management team, as they were prepared for different scenarios and made sure the staff was still on payroll to be actively scheduling and getting patients back in.

We have a number of health care businesses, and they were dramatically affected, but often in different ways than just revenue. We had a number of home care businesses that were caring for everything from critically ill children to providing infusion therapy. Following changing guidelines was an ongoing challenge. A lot of these businesses actually found greater demand as hospitals didn’t want people coming in for non-critical, non-covid related treatment.

Other businesses were affected in the ways you would expect to see during a recession, but on an accelerated basis. In such a dramatic slowdown, you saw customers or vendors take action very quickly. As investors who have invested through the last three recessions, we had seen this happen before. In this case, however, it was as if someone turned a switch to the “off” position. People changed behavior immediately in turn. We’re fortunate that we didn’t lose any business to COVID.

Dan: We have a couple of businesses in hospitality and tourism that were affected most deeply and the longest. Demand in those sectors has not returned to normal, and forecasting remains challenging. One of those business did close for a couple of months, and it is now only operating on a very limited basis.  Many of our portfolio companies are in the manufacturing and business services sectors, and those companies have largely rebounded in early Q3.

In this case, however, it was as if someone turned a switch to the “off” position. People changed behavior immediately in turn. We’re fortunate that we didn’t lose any business to COVID.

– Derek McDowell

Elie: Most of the locations remained open as they were considered essential. Specifically, we were able to remain open given that the majority of our businesses were considered critical infrastructure to the Defense Industrial Base as defined by the Department of Homeland Security.  The few businesses that had to shut down because they did not meet that definition were mainly service businesses and thankfully were able to operate virtually with minimal disruption. All in all, we are very thankful that our portfolio companies fared just fine.

What steps did you take to minimize risk and distribute resources to your companies?

Murray: Once we assessed the threshold issue of portfolio company liquidity and confirmed that our companies were generally in a good position, then the next issue was to help our CEOs and their management teams take care of their team members.

Derek: At Boyne,  the first thing that we did  was to make sure that all of our employees were safe and were comfortable working remotely. Around March 17th, we encouraged our team to work from home, depending on their own needs. We had a fair number of people who were already setup to work remotely so the shift was not too drastic. I know it was harder for some than others depending on their situation. However, our office was open with social distancing practices in effect, but people did not have to attend if they were not comfortable or did not feel safe. The important thing was that we were still being productive.

The other action we took was to be sure that all necessary supplies were available to our companies and workers, such as sanitizers and PPE masks. This was particularly important for our healthcare companies. This was, as many know, difficult due to shortages. In fact, these shortages were quite surprising to us. The panic factor escalated things beyond what we could have predicted. The good news is most of our corporate companies were really self-sufficient. They took advantage of collaboration opportunities with other portfolio companies resulting in everybody getting what they needed. We didn’t face a lot of destruction on that front in terms of protecting our healthcare workers, people working with patients or our own employees. We also did our best to source some supplies for our team so they could bring them home to their families.

“The steps that we took were to greatly increase the frequency of our communications and lending whatever support was needed to our partners at the portfolio companies.”

– Elie Azar

Dan: The COVID-19 crisis created a need to learn and adapt very quickly in a number of ways such as health & safety, managing operations and liquidity, changing regulatory, tax laws, etc. At Salt Creek, we took to the lead in supporting our CEO’s by researching topics, reaching out to legal, insurance and other professionals, and hosting the weekly call to disseminate information to our CEO’s, so that each individually did not feel they needed to do this work on their own. This put a big strain on our firm, but it was more efficient for us to do this work and share findings so that our CEO’s and management teams could focus on their businesses in such an uncertain time. We invest in lower middle market companies, so our companies are lean and stretched for resources in normal times. We felt Salt Creek needed to play a bigger role supporting our CEO’s through this crisis, and while that’s tapering off, it remains a priority. We found the weekly calls to be a great way to ensure lessons learned at one company quickly spread to others, and that the CEO’s enjoyed the opportunity to learn from each other, as well as receive the Salt Creek updates.

Elie: March and April were a grueling period with daily calls (sometimes multiple calls a day) with every single company’s management team. I would say the steps that we took were to greatly increase the frequency of our communications and lending whatever support was needed to our partners at the portfolio companies.

Were there any circumstances that were more unique or otherwise not typical for the shutdowns in regards to your firm or companies?

Murray: One of our portfolio companies serves federal agencies in the defense and intelligence communities. In that situation, the company’s interactions with its customers were different than those of our commercial portfolio companies because most of its government agency clients are doing mission-critical work that must continue despite the pandemic. Our portfolio company dealt with a wide variety of workforce solutions used by the various client agencies to keep performing essential security operations while combatting COVID. Each agency has its own set of rules and in some cases, top-secret work required being on-site at the agency at least part-time.

“Our sense was that most of our competition would tighten their belts and cut spending in these areas in response to the uncertainty created by COVID-19. We advocated that this was a great opportunity to gain market share while competition retrenched.”

– Dan Phelps

Derek: I don’t think there was anything out of the ordinary in terms of what people in similar situations had to deal with. The exception would be our healthcare companies. While that industry is certainly in demand, those demands came with shifting priorities and a lot of uncertainty moving forward. Like we touched on earlier, ensuring they had the supplies they needed was crucial and they needed more than most industries would.

Dan: We encouraged our companies that were still seeing normal demand to be aggressive in sales and marketing efforts. Our sense was that most of our competition would tighten their belts and cut spending in these areas in response to the uncertainty created by COVID-19. We advocated that this was a great opportunity to gain market share while competition retrenched. This was especially true with Safe in Sound, a Miracle Ear franchisee with locations throughout Arizona. Many competitors chose to close their locations during COVID-19, but our CEO increased advertising efforts and was rewarded with increased return on his investment. Outsized growth leads us to conclude we are gaining market share, which will benefit the company in years to come with the lifetime value of the new customers we acquired by aggressively focusing on growth throughout the pandemic. For those companies that execute well during times like this, recovery comes more quickly, and they exit the crisis stronger than they entered it.

Elie: Yes. I would say that our defense/firearms portfolio actually posted very strong growth year to date and over the prior year, which was the exact opposite of what you saw in other industries that were hit hard. So I guess you can consider that unique and atypical of what you’d expect to see by way of earnings trends in a global pandemic.

The term of the shutdowns tested virtually every company and industry with constantly changing regulations, data and shutdown terms. Of these factors, which impacted operations the greatest?

Murray: The diversity of rules has been the biggest issue.  In order to plan for re-opening, each of our portfolio companies has had to respond to regulations in all the states and municipalities where the company has offices, and these rules have been changing week to week. Also, as our companies return to face-to-face sales efforts and service delivery interactions at client locations, the applicable limitations of each of those locations must be considered.

Derek: It was the uncertainty. The changing data and public policy were challenging to navigate around. As an example, the sheltering-in-place was a policy with a very fluid duration. It was extended multiple times. I think that was probably the toughest part, because it affected our ability to infer what we should do next. That’s why communication was so crucial.

“The sheltering-in-place was a policy with a very fluid duration. It was extended multiple times. I think that was probably the toughest part, because it affected our ability to infer what we should do next.”

– Derek McDowell

Dan: Companies that were forced to close with uncertain re-opening dates and poor guidance from state and local authorities created the greatest challenge. This impacted every aspect of running the business, including communicating with employees, setting customer expectations, managing vendor relationships and managing liquidity. While many of our businesses were deemed essential and able to continue to operate those that were not faced enormous challenges. Four Wheel Campers, which manufacturers pop-up campers for pickup trucks, was shutdown for 7+ weeks. Maintaining communication with employees about pay and benefits, return to work, health and safety, etc. was a huge effort, and we continue managing through supply chain issues given the length of this shutdown. Thankfully, the company’s outdoor products are in huge demand as consumers seek COVID-10 safe recreation options, and the company has ramped back up aggressively to meet the backlog.

Elie: Most of our locations remained open given as they were considered critical infrastructure to the Defense Industrial Base. In addition, most of our manufacturing locations are located outside of the hardest hit cities and urban areas so that also helped. But I think the greatest challenge was keeping up with the latest stats as well as the constantly changing and sometimes conflicting recommendations and requirements.

Communications were made more difficult with suspended travel and the cancellation of conferences. How were deal sourcing and lead generation affected by this?

Murray: The volume of deal flow dropped dramatically. As you would expect, many companies that might have been considering a transaction are now focused on other matters and are probably rightfully thinking this may not be the best time to go to market. Nonetheless, RLH was able to close a new investment on June 30th by doing much of detailed due diligence, and all of our negotiations of the letter of intent and transaction documents, over video. The key to this success was that we had developed a relationship with the company’s management team over nearly two years prior to the onset of COVID. Since we already had the interpersonal connections, we had built strong ties that enabled us to do several months of transaction work remotely to close the deal.

Derek: We were in the final innings of closing a new platform investment in March. Our last deal at that time was an energy services business and we were able to close. We felt comfortable doing it as they had commercial contracts setup for the next year. Plus, it was an essential utility business. We also had a lot of face-time already with the team so the foundational relationship and trust were there. Subsequent to that platform investment, we closed two more add-on acquisitions. Deal sourcing wasn’t a real concern for the immediate future as we focused on managing the response to the pandemic. Needless to say, everyone was distracted by it, so we made an effort to reconnect with our companies and contacts to make sure everyone was alright. Emails and social media campaigns helped us stay connected with our network and in good spirits. Making sure that our presence is felt is important to us. Those efforts, in our opinion, also helped plant the seeds for the future and helped with our lead generation. Lately though, deal flow is back up and seems to be on a healthy rebound.

“We had developed a relationship with the company’s management team over nearly two years prior to the onset of COVID. Since we already had the interpersonal connections, we had built strong ties that enabled us to do several months of transaction work remotely to close the deal.”

– Murray Rudin

Dan: In a people-based business like ours, it’s a real change to not be able to meet in-person for management presentations and company tours. Developing a relationship with sellers and management teams is very important to us, and definitely a challenge to accomplish remotely. But, in less than a quarter, video meetings have become commonplace as we all adapt to the current situation. With few people traveling and far less in-person meetings, I find responsiveness higher with everyone close to their computer and/or phone, which allows for real-time collaboration and work streams to move more quickly. No commute times also means people are more available. My sense is that many processes have become more efficient and will continue post-COVID-19, but we do look forward to getting back to relationship building in person and handshakes.

Elie: We prefer traveling for the face-to-face meetings, but we have adapted and so have M&A advisors, lenders and target company management.  Despite these challenges, we remain very active this year and have closed six new add-on acquisitions for a couple of our platform companies.  Based on our current active pipeline (i.e., deals under LOI), we are hoping to close another new platform company and another two add-ons this year.

Prior to COVID-19, many PE firms expressed a desire to utilize new marketing methods. Has COVID-19 made you reconsider your marketing and outreach strategy? If so, what measures and new methods have you implemented?

Murray: I don’t think that COVID-19 specifically has caused a change in our fundamental ideas about marketing.  We expect there to be a vaccine; ultimately the COVID fear will recede and interactions will resume in traditional ways such as introductory meetings with prospective management teams and conferences with the dealmaking community.  However, looking ahead, we are going to use more digital marketing methods for deal lead generation, but that was already in our plans prior to COVID and was driven by years of society’s digital transformation.

Derek: That’s an interesting question. We haven’t made a material change to our outreach or marketing process to our referral communities. It is something we’ll evaluate as we get through this process. Similar to having people working remotely,  communicating by different means may be required.. The way people communicate drives how we must communicate with them.

“We have traditionally mostly relied on industry conferences but with travel and conferences being ether cancelled or severely disrupted, we have looked to focus on digital advertising and email outreach.”

– Elie Azar

Dan: We’ve made a large investment in direct sourcing efforts in recent years, and during COVID-19 we’ve doubled down on those efforts.  We use a multi-channel approach (email, phone, mail) which are all even more important with less in-person contact.  Seeing this effort beginning to pay off in the form of increased deal flow, we’ve added a few new investment team members during COVID-19, which I suspect is unusual and not typical at most PE firms.

Elie: We have traditionally mostly relied on industry conferences but with travel and conferences being ether cancelled or severely disrupted, we have looked to focus on digital advertising and email outreach. For example, the marketing team at Grady Campbell (GCI) has helped us greatly with online marketing and email outreach. We’ve had great responses from those campaigns and so we look forward to expanding those efforts.

Has COVID-19 changed where you will be investing in the future? Are there any industries or markets that you will be avoiding?

Murray: Our core philosophy on investments is likely to remain as it has been for many years: focused on distinctive, fast growing, profitable enterprises with revenue of $25-150 million in the business services, healthcare, and government services sectors. We think about investment opportunities in a 5-10 year horizon so relatively near-term disruptions like a pandemic or a recession don’t fundamentally change the type of businesses we seek.  If anything, the acceleration of digital transformation throughout society as a result of COVID has reinforced our commitment to businesses that provide the services and solutions that enable that transformation.

Derek: The short answer is, yes. I don’t think there’s a private equity firm out there that couldn’t look back at a series of transactions that they had evaluated in the prior year and hasn’t benefited from hindsight. Granted, that could go in the positive or the negative with how some markets have grown and how others have shrunk. At Boyne, we will continue to focus on fundamentally sound businesses in which we can partner with operators to build larger more success enterprises.

Dan:  While we have limited exposure to hospitality and travel, and no companies in the retail industry, those are unlikely be areas of focus for us in the coming year or longer.  We have invested extensively in manufacturing, business and industrial services, and food & beverage, and the majority of those companies are at or near full recovery.  This tells us that, generally speaking, those sectors should be stable, barring another major re-occurrence.  We recently completed an acquisition of managed IT services company during the COVID-19 crisis, which is thriving in this environment.  Many companies are investing in their IT systems to support remote work, increased security and resiliency, which is driving demand and providing strong growth.  Accordingly, we’ll likely look for more opportunities in that sector.

Elie: It is very important to be diversified and defensive, and even more important to be thinking about these factors in the good times because when the bad times hit, it’s often too late.  Our approach at White Wolf has always been mindful of these concepts and therefore we have always sought to accelerate diversification through M&A and have been defensive in terms of end-markets and the use of leverage.

With the gradual re-openings and this situation moving into the rearview mirror, what obstacles remain for you and your portfolio companies to fully recover?

Murray: For our portfolio companies to fully recover, their clients need to start returning to the office so that the aspects of selling and delivering solutions that require some amount of face-to-face contact can resume. That’s really dependent on the rate at which the country, the economy, and individual businesses get comfortable with personal safety in the office. Granted, working remotely has proven to not only be possible, but optimal in many cases. However, some parts of business are still best conducted in person.

Derek: For us, it’s still the matter of uncertainty. We ultimately do not know what is going to come next, how far along it will be and what variables will come into play. The fear and panic factors have played a substantial role in both policy, business owner and consumer behaviors. I’m not a doctor, so I could not say if a vaccine would help or not with that. Some behaviors may become permanent regardless. We are very interested in what people’s concerns are and address them as best we can to keep things on track. Our companies are doing well and we are moving in the right direction. How long it will take to get back to 100% remains unclear.

“The fear and panic factors have played a substantial role in both policy, business owner and consumer behaviors. I’m not a doctor, so I could not say if a vaccine would help or not with that. Some behaviors may become permanent regardless.”

– Derek McDowell

Dan: We still don’t have a cure or vaccine, so the health and safety of our company employees remains a priority. Many of our companies require workers to be onsite, so creating and maintaining a safe work environment is critical. Despite following CDC guidelines and best practices, we continue to have isolated cases occur among employees, resulting in absenteeism and, in some cases, shutdowns for cleaning. Accordingly, we’ll continue to support our CEO’s on safe work environments and best practices until COVID-19 is eradicated.

Elie: In general, we remain highly cautious. Unfortunately, this isn’t over yet and I don’t think the coming months are going to be smooth sailing either – especially with the upcoming flu/winter season. We just have to stay focused and disciplined and be ready to tackle whatever challenges come up. We are all looking forward to somehow getting this pandemic behind us and look forward to hopefully, better days ahead for everyone.

Our Interview Participants

Derek McDowell
Managing Partner, Boyne Capital

Derek is the Founder and Managing Partner of Miami-based Boyne Capital. He is involved in all phases of the investment process and portfolio management at Boyne. He has a deep understanding of the needs of owners and managers of mid-sized companies. He invests for the long-term and believes in maximizing value by focusing on business fundamentals. With over twenty years of private equity experience, Derek has significant experience in structuring and leading recapitalizations of privately held businesses, corporate divestitures and restructurings. His industry expertise includes financial services, business and consumer services, healthcare, building products, consumer products and aerospace. Prior to founding Boyne, Derek began his career working with private equity and management consulting firms, including: Trivest Partners, HIG Capital Management, Continental Illinois Venture Corporation and Corporate Value Associates. Derek received his AB from Dartmouth College and MBA from the University of Chicago, Graduate School of Business.

Elie Azar
Founder, CEO and Managing Director, White Wolf Capital

Elie Azar is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of White Wolf Capital LLC (“White Wolf”) which began operations in September 2011. Prior to founding White Wolf and its affiliates, Elie worked at Cerberus Capital Management, Ernst & Young’s M&A Transaction Advisory group and Arthur Andersen. Elie has an MBA from Cornell University and a BA from the American University of Beirut. Elie holds a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) charter and has also passed the U.S. Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Examination as well as the Chartered Alternative Investment Association (CAIA) Level I Examination. Elie is a member of the CFA Institute, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the National Rifle Association. Elie manages the overall business of White Wolf and its affiliates.

Murray Rudin
Managing Director, RLH Equity

Murray has over two decades of experience in private equity at RLH.  He has served as a member of the Board of Directors of many RLH portfolio companies across a range of sectors including IT consulting, recruiting services, federal services, and healthcare revenue cycle management.  He has also previously held the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Compliance Officer responsibilities at RLH.  Murray believes that RLH’s focus on the people side of business is a significant and differentiating factor in the firm’s success.  Murray earned a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Rochester and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.  He has held a variety of non-profit leadership roles and has also served for multiple years as a judge for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year program in Orange County, California.

Dan Phelps
Founder & Managing Director, Salt Creek Capital

Dan founded Salt Creek Capital in 2009. He leads new investments and serves as chairman or a director on the boards of several Salt Creek portfolio companies. Additionally, he serves as a director on the boards of Infoblox (NYSE: BLOX) and TSS, Inc. (OTC: TSSI).

Prior to Salt Creek, Dan was a General Partner at Opus Capital, a $280M Menlo Park, CA based fund where he led growth equity and buyout efforts focusing on the middle market. Previously, Dan was a General Partner and founding member of Duchossois Technology Partners, a $100M Chicago-based venture capital firm. Earlier in his career, Dan was an investment professional at the Pritzker financial office and began his career at Ernst & Young.

Dan graduated with Honors from The Ohio State University with a B.S. in Business Administration and holds an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago.

Grady Campbell Knows PE

For more than 30 years, Grady Campbell has planned, designed and executed game-changing, high quality solutions that help Private Equity firms thrive. Grady Campbell works with PE firms over the long-term, through all phases of the investment cycle – from fundraising, to investment, to divestment.

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