In the News

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by Tristan Navera

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by Jayne Gest

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November 08, 2019

Central Ohio energy company goes employee-owned

Utility Technologies International Corp., a Groveport-based company that works in management, engineering, construction, operations and maintenance of natural gas pipelines and infrastructure, has completed a transition to employee ownership.

The company, founded by CEO Richard "Dick" Dickerson in 1992, is now controlled by the 69 people who work there.

Several of UTI's former shareholders will stay on as management in the company. But as he was considering succession planning, Dickerson said he saw an employee stock ownership plan "as a way to not only capitalize on their investment but ensure the cultural legacy of the company."

"Once we understood the benefits available to us and our employees it was clear this was the best path forward," Dickerson said in a statement.

Columbus-based investment management firm Lazear Capital Partners Ltd. structured the transaction and served as financial advisor for the company...

November 04, 2019

UTI Sells Company To ESOP Trust

Utility Technologies International Corp., a service provider to the natural gas pipeline industry, has sold 100 percent of the company to an employee stock ownership plan trust. The selling shareholders, led by majority shareholder Dick Dickerson, saw an ESOP as a way to not only capitalize on their investment but ensure the cultural legacy of the company.

With several shareholders staying on as members of management, UTI felt it was imperative to consider an option that best allowed the company to continue to grow organically.

UTI, located in Groveport, has been operating since 1992.

Lazear Capital Partners, an investment banking firm in Columbus, was engaged to arrange the transaction and serve as the company’s financial adviser.

June 20, 2019

Merchant Banking Firm Expanding in Arena District

With a wide range of businesses in transition, an Arena District-based firm that helps owners sell their companies is busy these days.

Lazear Capital Partners Ltd., a merchant banking firm catering to mid-market companies, is expanding to a 7,300-square-foot office on the second floor of 401 N. Front St.

 

The move represents a nearly 70% increase in square footage from its current home in the same building, and is a result of its growth.

 

The 20-year old firm, founded by partners Bruce Lazear, Michael Morosky and Ted Lape, now has a local staff of 15, including recently hired attorneys, CPAs, and executives with tax and transaction expertise.

"We've been growing like crazy," Morosky said.

The company, which has sales offices in Cleveland and Detroit and wants to expand further. It's considering additional sales offices in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis. The new space in Columbus will give it breathing room to expand its staff further, though it doesn't have definite hiring plans.

Lazear offers services including merger and acquisition advisory, turnaround advisory, corporate finance and litigation services.

It's seen particular growth in conversions to employee stock ownership plans, or ESOPs, Morosky said. In five years, the firm has completed more than 40 major business transactions, half of them ESOP deals.

 

In an ESOP, the owner sells stock back to the company, which in turn allocates shares to employees. Once an employee retires or goes on disability, they're able to cash out. It keeps the company privately owned but still meets the owners' financial needs and provides a cash flow to the business.

And it's mutually beneficial – employees' stake in the company grows over time, helping with retention, while the company is also less likely to move as could happen if it's bought by someone from out of town.

Still, Lazear Capital is agnostic to the kind of transactions it does, and having an adviser has helped business-owner clients make a move on selling their businesses. That's something they are at times hesitant to do otherwise, Lape said.

"They're often worried that selling to a competitor or private equity will mean a loss of jobs or that they'll be put out of work," he said. "Our message has resonated with people. When we talk to clients about potentially selling companies, they like the concept of selling to a third party or selling to employees."

Lazear Capital’s Ted Lape On Transparency, Creativity And The Rise Of ESOPs

Lazear Capital Partners isn’t afraid to deliver bad news to business owners who want to sell.

“We do a ton of education for sellers for free because we don’t want to take money from someone who doesn’t understand what they want to do,” Partner Ted Lape says. “Sometimes we do an enormous amount of work upfront, just to tell people they shouldn’t do a deal.”

People appreciate the firm’s honesty and groundwork, and the effort often turns into referrals...

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by Jayne Gest

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