The DealMakers: LA's Top 25 Executives in Mergers and Acquisitions

Los Angeles Business Journal :: October 27, 1997 :: Excerpt

The 25 men listed below live for one thing: the deal.

When the deal is on, these guys — and they are all guys, a reflection of the boy’s club nature of the M&A game — will spend weeks at a time eating, breathing and sleeping in high-rise offices, hyped up on coffee and sodas, working out details while the rest of the world is playing or sleeping. And then, when the deal is finally done, the champagne is uncorked, the party begins, and everybody remembers they actually have a life.

Until the next deal comes along.

These are the investment bankers, lawyers and consultants who have put together the biggest corporate marriages on the West Coast in the past decade — whether using their own money or someone else’s. Many of them have MBAs and spent their formative years at Drexel Burnham Lambert, the defunct investment bank formed by Michael Milken.

The names were selected after consultations with a wide variety of sources within the local M&A community, then winnowed down by the Business Journal’s editorial staff.

Top 25 Executives in Mergers and Acquisitions
Traditional Investment Bankers 5
"Boutique" Investment Bankers 7
Principals of LBO Funds 3
Lawyers 1
Accountants 9

William Doyle helped establish an L.A. presence for some of the nation's biggest investment banks before finally striking out on his own to found Kerlin Capital Group in 1994.

Fresh out of school in the early 1970s, L.A.-native Doyle went to work for Lehman Brothers, starting out in New York and later moving to Los Angeles as one of Lehman's first corporate professionals in the Western United States. By the time he left Lehman in the mid-1980s, Doyle had worked his way up to managing director of the firm's L.A. office. A series of high-level jobs with other major investment firms followed.

After only three years on his own, Doyle has engineered some of L.A.'s biggest merger and acquisition deals. The largest was the July 1996 sale of Davidson & Associates, Inc., an educational software maker in Torrance, to CUC International for $1 billion. Kerlin Capital subsequently co-managed a $460 million secondary offering for its clients, the Davidson family, in November 1996.

"He's not boisterous or aggressive, but persistent," said Bob Davidson, former chief executive of Davidson & Associates. "I think his strength is in his judgment."

In another recent showcase deal, Kerlin Capital represented the owners of Rose Hills Memorial Park, a local cemetery, which sold to a partnership between the Loewen Group and the Blackstone Group for a reported $240 million in November 1996.

Kerlin Capital also represented Prudential California Realty in its 1995 merger with Jon Douglas Co.

Former Rose Hills Chairman John Argue said Doyle's biggest asset is his ability to bring together different parties with different cultures — as in the complex sale of Rose Hills.

"He's a very dynamic, hands-on guy," Argue said. "He's both good with the numbers and a good strategic thinker. He's also a good talker. He can build an argument and make relationships."

In addition to his recent deals, Doyle is working on the sale — expected to close soon — of a specialty foods company for $95 million. Kerlin Capital also has four more major deals in progress, Doyle added.

"We're in the client-based investment banking business," he said. "We're not really transactionally oriented as much as interested in continuing client involvement."

—Douglas Young