Merger Clout

Tulsa mergers and acquisitions intermediary firm Bluestem Resources Affiliated Group, LLC, is in the position to put the Tulsa and Oklahoma market in front of many of the nation’s investors.
Its network of private equity groups and other buyers in the small to middle market business arena “gives us an opportunity to give companies and businesses in Oklahoma national exposure because we have those relationships,” said Rob Firestone, co-owner.
John C. Johnson, the original owner of Bluestem Resources Group, and Firestone, who held Oklahoma Business Brokers and Oklahoma Commercial Realty, merged their M&A intermediary firms a year ago.
“What we created is really the largest and most expansive business brokerage and intermediary firm, not only in Oklahoma, but really in a pretty large region now, going all the way up into Kansas, most of Missouri and Arkansas,” Firestone said.
He said the merged firms, with eight brokers and associates, have more people at a professional level than any other M&A firm in that region.
“We have the largest number of CBIs (4) in the state and actually are the only M&AMIs in the state – John and I,” he said.
The CBI (certified business intermediary) and M&AMI (merger & acquisition master intermediary) designations are awarded through the International Business Brokers Association Inc., (IBBA) and the M&A Source, the largest international organization of merger and acquisition intermediaries representing the middle market.
Firestone, who is on the board of directors of the IBBA and this week assumed the chairmanship of the M&A Source, said there “are only about 50-60 in the world who have been able to get that (M&AMI) accreditation.”
Working ‘Main Street’ and More
Bluestem Resources, which operates out of 4,000 SF in 21 Centre Park, 2642 E. 21st St, Ste. 285, concentrates on the “Main Street” to lower middle market, with “Main Street” being smaller businesses that have transaction values below $1-1.5 million and the lower middle market covering the $1.5-20 million range, he said. The middle market will top out at about $100 million.
Bluestem has two associates who concentrate on the Main Street market, Firestone said. “About 82 percent of the businesses in the U.S. falls in that category, and so there is a great need out there.”
He said the rest either “straddle the high end of the lower market and barely tap into the upper market” or focus on the lower middle market. They work with buyers or sellers on mergers, acquisitions or divestitures.
With each associate representing three to four selling clients at any time, Bluestem may have 20 to 30 selling clients at any one time.
“We work with private equity groups from all over the country. Those private equity groups may have a fund on the low end of $100 million up to several billion dollars. And what they are doing is they are looking and buying up companies. They build the value of those companies and they turn around and flip them,” he said.
“And the people that put that together – that’s us.”

Finger on the Acquisition Pulse
Those relationships give Bluestem the opportunity to keep in touch with the interest of the investment market, Firestone said.
Bluestem has access to about 2,500 private equity groups and “we have about 100-150 that we work with on a very close basis,” he said. “Twice a year we will get together with about 60 to 75 private equity groups and I will find out exactly what they are looking for – whether its aerospace, manufacturing, distribution – and what market segment they might be looking for and how we might best be able to present them with opportunities.”
As a result, he is able to give Tulsa and Oklahoma companies and businesses national exposure.
Firestone cited a client who wanted to sell a small manufacturing company and he posted it on the Bluestem website,
“These private equity groups know who we are, so they check them (listings) daily,” he said. “That thing had not been up an hour or two hours, and bam, I get a call from a private equity group out of Connecticut who wants to know about this company.”
“If we did not have that relationship with those capital groups or private equity groups, my clients company would never have that kind of exposure to the marketplace out there.”
While Bluestem primarily represents companies from the Tulsa and Oklahoma areas, it has handled projects from across the nation, Firestone said. While they have relationships with many private equity groups, they also “look for corporate buyers, strategic buyers, synergistic buyers and, of course, financial or net worth buyers.”

Selling Them on Tulsa
While there is interest among investors in coming into Oklahoma, particularly into the Tulsa markets, more “needs to happen on the behalf of Tulsa,” Firestone said.
“We need to have some people who can go out and convince these companies to move here, not only just from tax incentives, but we need to be able to show them why it makes sense for them to pick up and relocate their entire company to Oklahoma,” he said. “I think we have a lot of reasons for them to do that, but somebody has to be able to visit with them and look at it from a merger and acquisitions standpoint – because that is where they live and breathe. That’s what they do.” ?

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