Business Transactions Group Year in Review 2019

February 24, 2020

The M&A market remained active in 2019, and Seward & Kissel clients engaged in a wide variety of complex and interesting deals that kept the Business Transactions Group busy all year.

As consistently occurs at Seward & Kissel, deals involving the purchase or sale of investment management firms, broker-dealers and other strategic transactions in the financial services industry were the largest portion of the 2019 work of the Business Transactions Group. This Year in Review highlights a selection of these transactions, including the management buyout of value equity manager Cramer Rosenthal McGlynn from Wilmington Trust; Tocqueville Asset Management’s sale of its gold strategies business to Sprott Asset Management (TSE:SII); the acquisition by UK-based commodities broker Marex Spectron of the customer business of Rosenthal Collins Group; Forbes Family Trust’s acquisition of fund of funds manager Optima Fund Management; and multiple sales and acquisitions of minority stakes in investment management firms for clients that included Kudu Investment Management, iM Global Partner, Emigrant Partners and First Long Island Investors. The Firm also continued to have market leading activity handling seed and accelerator investment transactions related to fund managers. Our IM Deals blog (, which follows transactions and developments involving the investment management industry, continues to be widely read by participants in the sector.

Shipping industry transactions continued apace in 2019, with this Review highlighting some of these deals, including the acquisition by Dry Ships Inc. (NASDAQ:DRYS), from an affiliate of Morgan Stanley and management, of 100% of the shares of shipping pool operator Heidmar Inc. that it did not already own; Ridgebury Tanker’s product tanker joint venture with Riverstone Capital and Tufton Marine; the acquisitions by Euroseas Ltd. (NASDAQ:ESEA) of eight container ships in two separate transactions; the acquisition by Scorpio Tankers Inc. (NYSE:STNG) of leasehold interests in 19 product tankers from Trafigura Maritime Logistics; and the going-private merger of DryShips Inc. with SPII Holdings (a company that may be deemed to be beneficially owned by DryShips’ CEO George Economou).

In 2019 middle-market M&A transactions in other industries comprised a larger portion of the work flow for the Business Transactions Group, including the sale of marketing research provider TOPO Research to Gartner (NYSE:IT); the sale of veterinary hospital operator PESCM to Ethos Veterinary Health; the recapitalization of professional services firm Constellation Advisers led by private equity sponsor TZP Group; the sale of insurance company Cincinnati Equitable Life Insurance Company to Michigan Farm Bureau Financial Corporation; and the sale of Sargeant Marine’s 50% stake in asphalt trading firm VALT to Vitol. In addition, our investment fund and other clients pursued numerous private equity, venture capital and PIPE investment transactions in a wide variety of businesses.

The work of Seward & Kissel’s Business Transactions Group continued to receive independent recognition during 2019. Chambers and Partners, in its 2019 USA Guide, ranked Seward & Kissel as Highly Regarded for Corporate/M&A, saying the firm is “Particularly adept at sell-side and midmarket transactions. Recognized for its cross-border capabilities. Often advises investment funds and clients in the shipping industry.” Likewise, The Legal 500, in its United States 2019 edition, recommended Seward & Kissel for middle-market M&A work, describing the team as “a trusted partner that provides practical advice and solutions to complex M&A projects” and “a go-to practice for middle-market M&A.” Meanwhile, The M&A Advisor selected the merger of Transocean with Seward & Kissel client Ocean Rig UDW as the winner of its 2019 Cross Border M&A Deal of the Year (Over $1 Billion) and also inducted Seward & Kissel partner Jim Abbott into its M&A Hall of Fame.

Seward & Kissel clients were very active in the deal markets in 2019, and this is continuing into the new year.

Click here to read the 2019 Year in Review.