2007 Printing Industry Hall of Fame — Master of the Deal - Chris Colville
“As Joe used to say, he trained the guys who trained me,” Colville says. “So he knew I received good training.”
The Jarvis and Frederic deals—Davis had letters of intent signed just as Colville came aboard—began the steady procession of acquisitions. While repetition did not make the process easier per se, Colville did develop a sense for identifying the critical points and the minute details. It was important to know when to let the lawyers have their say and when he needed to step in to make sure a deal didn’t fall apart.
“Chris is a great financial executive with extremely talented analytical skills,” Davis notes. “He is able to relate to a wide range of people and discuss very complex matters in understandable terms.”
While Colville and CGX did have a formula of determining the value and an offer price for a potential acquisition, Colville often sought to avoid that conversation. The culture of a company and the credibility of the management team paints a much clearer picture than the financials, he believes.
“We had upper parameters that we could pay for companies based upon that company’s capital resources, our bank lines, public stock and the like,” Colville says. “But the credibility of the management team was far more important than the financial information. We wanted management teams with a primary focus on their business as opposed to outside interests. We’d make our own judgment as to the management team’s interest in the business, their knowledge of it and balance that with who their customers are. If they’re a quality printer, their clientele would include the best companies in their market. That’s important. Then we did the equipment appraisals, looked at multiples, things like that.”
Harris DeWese, chairman and CEO of Compass Capital Partners, has advised companies on more than 100 transactions, and on about 20 occasions has sat across from Colville at the bargaining table. He calls Colville “one of the best deal makers I’ve ever encountered. Chris has a superb financial mind and controls a transaction extremely well. He’s a pleasure to negotiate with, even if you don’t always win your point.
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