Intrepid's role was not only to find candidates to take over Nelson, but prepare the investment book for them and perform due diligence on the bidders. And there was one more important function — hand-holding.
"Selling a business can be an emotional thing when you've owned it for 27 years," Cassutt says. "They helped us keep our emotional balance."
Intrepid's principals have long earned high marks from clients and others on the local M&A scene for their experience and attention to detail — their "execution skills," in the words of Eric Bacon, co-head of the Cleveland private equity firm Linsalata Capital Partners, which worked with them on its acquisition last year of a majority stake in Cypress-based Manhattan Beachwear.
That's what appealed to Eileen Goodis in 2005 when she decided to sell Home Pharmacy of California, her home healthcare business.
Burbank-based Home Pharmacy's 150 employees delivered infusion medications for patients needing IV nutrition, pain management or chemotherapy at home, and oversaw the necessary nursing services, but it had become clear that it would need to grow to national scale to obtain contracts from health plans in the increasingly consolidated health insurance industry.
She chose Barrington without interviewing any other firm to help her find a buyer, she says. "I had so many colleagues and friends who had used them and were happy. Their reputation spoke a lot." Barrington assisted on Home Pharmacy's eventual sale to Walgreen Co., which was expanding from retailing into healthcare services.
The middle-market M&A landscape today looks a lot as it did in the 1990s, when Barrington was experiencing strong growth. "There had been a bad recession then too," says Rosenberg, and — fingers crossed — a long period of recovery may lie ahead. Commercial banks are lending aggressively to support private equity deals, a sign that the credit crunch of 2008 may finally have passed, at least in this sector.
That's not to say that Intrepid isn't facing new challenges.
"The landscape is one of more competition," says Lawrence M. Braun, a leading Los Angeles M&A attorney who has worked with Freedman and his team on numerous deals, including Nelson Nameplate. "The clientele has become more sophisticated, and they're looking for bankers who specialize in their industries."
Still, Freedman and his partners are looking for a reprise. "Five years from now," he says, "you may see something again that resembles Barrington in size and reputation."
Michael Hiltzik's column appears Sundays and Wednesdays. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, read past columns at latimes.com/hiltzik, check out facebook.com/hiltzik and follow @latimeshiltzik on Twitter.