New M&A advisory team for commercial integrators, manufacturers

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

PHILADELPHIA—Saying they aim to help an under-served portion of the marketplace, long-time industry members Eric Pritchard, head of the security practice at Kleinbard Bell & Brecker, and Sam Vinicur, president of executive search firm TSS International, have teamed to form Ascendant Strategy Partners, a brokerage firm targeted at independent commercial systems integrators and mid-sized security product manufacturers.

“We’re not selling RMR alarm companies,” said Pritchard, who has advised on more than 100 alarm-company sales over the years. “We’re really focused on the integration side of the business and working to educate that market on RMR.”

Announced at the ISC West show in Las Vegas last month, the business attracted a great deal of initial interest, said Vinicur. He attributed that to a need in the market on the part of integrators to better understand the worth of their businesses, and a need on the part of acquirers to better understand what’s available.

The larger integrators are looking for acquisitions, Vinicur said, where they can retain ownership of the customer. “Some of these guys are looking at corporate-mandated growth, and they must do it by acquisition,” he said. “Maybe they’re looking at specific verticals or geographies. We’ve heard a lot of different stories.”

With their combinations of backgrounds—Vinicur has been an end user and serves as program and membership chair of the ASIS Philadelphia chapter, and now fits executives with companies; Pritchard has extensive M&A background, plus experience advising on liability and other pressing issues—the two feel Ascendant can be especially good at matching companies so that the culture is a good fit and the acquisition is a net positive. “So many of these deals in the industry have gone sideways,” Vinicur said. “They were a bad fit, and two years later it’s a mess.”

In the integration space, Ascendant figures to possibly match IT and security VARs as well.

In the manufacturer space, Ascendant sees “a lot of people hanging on by their fingertips looking to get acquired by strong companies,” Vinicur said. Ascendant hopes to match those companies with good technologies that are struggling in this economy with larger, stronger companies that aren’t nimble enough to develop the newest solutions on their own.

While Pritchard and Vinicur acknowledge that Imperial Capital is active in this same space, they feel the market is still under-served and that there’s more than enough room for a new M&A advisory firm in this middle slice of the security market.

“Different integrators want different things,” Pritchard said, “but we can help just about anyone cut through the tape and get to the decision maker.”