5 Questions with Matthew Bristow: Tulsa World

Tulsa World:  5 Questions with Matthew Bristow

As it appeared in the Tulsa World – CLICK HERE

Interview by Laurie Winslow, Tulsa World Staff Writer

Matthew Bristow is co-founder and managing director of ClearRidge, a mergers and acquisitions, investment banking, and restructuring firm. He is a federal- and state-registered investment banking agent and a certified merger and acquisition adviser, with banking and finance experience in London and Paris. Bristow is active in the Rotary Club of Tulsa and is a trustee of First Presbyterian Church.

1. How has ClearRidge grown or changed since it was founded in 2008?

Our firm has grown every year since we formed with just two partners. The team comprises professionals with a broad depth of experience and skills from federal- and state-registered investment bankers to CPAs, fraud examiners, and restructuring and turnaround professionals.

We serve many midsize Oklahoma companies, as well as commercial banks and law firms, and have grown to become one of the most active M&A, investment banking and restructuring firms in the region.

2. What is the environment like right now for mergers and acquisitions?

While we have our own feel for the market, we try to validate our outlook with market data from leading independent surveys. All things considered, 2012 should be a strong year for M&A. We saw an increase in demand from strategic buyers in 2011 and expect this to continue through 2012, which drives not only higher deal volumes, but also higher valuations.

Other drivers of M&A activity in 2012 are likely to be potential capital gains tax increases in 2013, which may cause some business owners to sell their companies before the end of the year, as well as higher energy prices that are driving higher valuations for energy-related deals. This is of particular importance to us in Oklahoma, and we’re seeing more and more companies moving from the sidelines to new strategic initiatives in 2012.

3. Where is M&A activity currently most noticeable in terms of specific sectors or the size of deals being done?

In Oklahoma, we are seeing significant activity in aerospace, energy services, energy-related manufacturing and distribution, as well as other industrial services, distribution and light manufacturing. In terms of deal size, we see highest demand and activity levels for companies ranging from $10 million to $100 million in annual revenue.

4. For companies looking to sell, what is the most important thing they can do to attract a buyer?

In many ways, attracting a buyer is the easier part. Structuring, managing and closing the deal is a bigger issue.

We believe in a professional process, planning and discipline to overcome most deal issues. An exceptional M&A process only happens with the highest level of trust between us and our clients. We take on our clients’ burdens and walk in our clients’ shoes, plan the way through the deal process and do whatever it takes to keep the deal on track.

There are innumerable stumbling blocks that can hold up a deal at the later stages, and we try to pre-emptively plan for each issue before it occurs. We can help our clients be better prepared, more timely and responsive, all of which are critical to getting a deal done first time and on time.

In terms of increasing a company’s attractiveness, differentiators are a real value driver: Focus on areas that make a business unique, efficient, process-driven, customer-focused and value-focused in their product or service offering. There is always higher demand for a profitable, growing business with a defensible niche.

5. Being originally from Great Britain, how would you contrast living in Tulsa to living in England?

I’m proud to call myself a Tulsan. From my perspective, Tulsa is a great place to live and grow a business.

Life here is a sharp contrast to London, where I spent many years before moving here. Tulsa shares more in common with my childhood home, an older town in the middle of England – greater accountability, a strong community and a better place to raise a family; though if I had to pick one, I’d choose Tulsa.

By LAURIE WINSLOW World Staff Writer