Relationships First: Reflecting on the First 25 Years of MelCap Partners

Relationships First: Reflecting on the First 25 Years of MelCap Partners

It’s Time: The Founding of MelCap Partners

In the early morning hours of a late winter day, Albert D. Melchiorre suddenly awoke in his bed at home to a phrase ringing in his mind. It consisted of two words that, while short and simple, would have a deeply profound impact on his life, the lives of his family members, and the lives of countless more individuals to come. Those two words were “it’s time”.

It was December 1999, and soon the entire world would be entering a new millennium. It was a pivotal time for many — just as it was for Al. Thus far, he’d spent his career working in national banking institutions and large accounting firms, but within those organizations he always focused on providing boutique-level service and support. That approach eventually led him to move on from major institutions and join actual boutique firms.

While at those organizations, Al focused on mergers and acquisitions for lower middle market companies. At that time, however, most firms wanted to shift their focus on larger upmarket deals. Al knew he wanted to continue providing the highest quality M&A services, but with the boutique firm experience, to the lower middle market.

This desire, combined with the privilege of taking a business owner through what is often the culmination of their life’s work, is what woke Al that late December night and led him to his home office where he began to write the business plan for MelCap Partners.

While it was clear to Al what he needed to do, it was not without significant risk — he and his wife had four young children for whom to provide. She asked him what he was doing as he awoke to write his business plan. When he told her, she said she supported him completely and without hesitation.

With the support of his family, Al began discussing the idea of a new boutique firm with friends and partners. One of these was Jeff Church — an entrepreneur and investor (and one that would play a major role in several future transactions). When Al told him his idea, he also gave complete support without hesitation. Al would receive similar affirmations and support from numerous other partners and investors, providing deep encouragement and giving him the clarity that he was moving in the right direction.

Getting Started: The Early Years

Those in the investment banking, private equity, and broader M&A industry will know how competitive the market is: it’s high risk, and personal and professional rewards are reflected in success or failure. Achieving clients’ goals and objectives requires unwavering confidence in your abilities. For a newly founded firm, those risks are even greater.

With experience on his side and an emphasis on strong relationships, Al spent the early years focused on growing the firm. But he had another motivator that helped him along the way: his faith. As a devout Catholic, Al has seen the hand of God on everything in his life — from meeting his wife in 1981 to how he supports clients and manages transactions. That faith encouraged and guided him early on as new opportunities arose.

Every transaction in those early years played a meaningful role in the firm’s growth. One of his first deals was with Jeff Church in the sale of Aztec Concrete Accessories, a company that Al previously had helped Jeff purchase. The company was sold to a private equity firm, Odyssey Investment Partners. This transaction and the relationships built throughout it would eventually lead to a deal five years later with Shearer’s Foods and its sale to a private equity group — a transformative one for the firm.

Offsetting Distressing Times with Distressed Transactions

Al and his team continued to focus on relationship-building and supporting lower middle market companies with buy-side and sell-side transactions for much of the firm’s early years. And while representing clients in healthy M&A transactions was always a focus, MelCap also began taking on distressed transactions — those in which the target company is facing some sort of challenge that could result in the business not surviving.

An example from MelCap’s portfolio of distressed transactions was the sale of Deaconess Hospital, a local Cleveland hospital to MetroHealth. Initially, the transaction started as a capital raising effort, but eventually the hospital went bankrupt and the deal turned into a sale. Through perseverance and dedication, MelCap was able to get the sale completed.

This occurred during the 2007–2008 financial crisis, when healthier M&A deals were not as prevalent. Being able to support and complete distressed transactions, however, is one of the ways that Al enabled his firm to resist economic pressures and continue doing deals in good times and bad. To this day, MelCap continues to provide support for distressed transactions globally and has won a number of awards for performance.

Growth Years: Prioritizing Relationships in Everything

As the world emerged from the financial crisis, Al and his team continued to build the firm over the next several years by continuing their relentless focus on relationships and by prioritizing controlled, steady growth. To Al, this approach was at times conservative — almost to a fault. But in reality, he and the team were building a network of time-tested, proven relationships that would serve as the foundation for growth in the years to come.

An example of this coming to fruition arrived in 2007, a couple of years after the Shearer’s Foods transaction. Al and his team were introduced to one of Bob Shearer’s friends, Tim Selinsky, one of the owners of Selinsky Companies. MelCap sold Selinsky to a family office of the Cassidy family. Five years later, SelinskyFORCE hired MelCap to divest a non-core business, the Rigging Division. A little more than a decade later, SelinskyFORCE engaged MelCap once more to assist in the sale of that business. That was just one example of the importance of taking a relationship oriented approach with clients.

That relationship focus isn’t limited to local or even national transactions, either. In 2016, MelCap Partners made the strategic decision to join Globalscope — a group of corporate finance and business advisors operating internationally to support domestic and international M&A transactions. Over the years, this network has opened up numerous opportunities for MelCap to support clients around the world. To date, the firm has supported or led transactions in more than 10 countries.

Throughout its growth journey, the firm has not stood still with its resources. MelCap has invested in more than 25 businesses throughout the years. Al notes that many of those investments have been transformational, too — with one being tied to one of the greatest deals the firm has ever managed. Additionally, MelCap invests heavily in communities both locally and regionally, and continues to sponsor a variety of events and fundraisers such as the Meadows Turkey Bowl — a local charity that supports families in need.

Not only has this commitment to its clients and communities enabled the firm to grow significantly over the years, but it has also led to a number of awards. Al and his team continue to be recognized by global organizations for their work across a variety of markets and transaction types. Most recently during the 15th Annual Global M&A Network Atlas Awards, the firm won America’s Deal of the Year for its Kid Works – Busy Bees transaction, and Al himself was honored with the Leadership Achievement Award.

The Future: Staying the Course

With hundreds of transactions completed in its 25 years, MelCap Partners isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Al and his team plan to continue the firm’s legacy of building meaningful, lasting relationships and helping clients achieve their goals. That said, it will continue to be done in a manageable way — and while welcoming new team members into the industry.

Al reflected on how far the company and industry have come over its 25 years. In the early days, so much was still done manually — from conducting research to printing and assembling offering documentation. In today’s digital world, and with the increased adoption of artificial intelligence tools, Al believes it’s important to continue instilling the importance of relationships into his team members:

“Relationships are everything. They’re what contributed to our success, and that success breeds more success. COVID and AI have changed so much, but there will always be a human element to this industry. Strong relationships will always set deals up for success and lead to future opportunities.”

By Al Melchiorre

Al founded MelCap Partners in 2000, and is responsible for managing all aspects of client engagements from proposal through closing, developing business, reviewing offering memorandums and financial models, negotiating purchase agreements, and interacting with buyers and investors.