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Meet one of the top women in M&A in Tampa Bay

Margie Manning

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Beth Cahill

An opportunity to tap into a fast-growing investment banking firm led veteran dealmaker Beth Cahill to join Skyway Capital Markets in Tampa.

Cahill, senior managing director, and Michael Johnson, managing director, joined Skyway last week after leaving CEA Group, a Tampa investment bank.

“Part of the impetus behind our move was the depth of bench they have and the ability to accomplish a number of transactions in multiple ways,” Cahill said during an interview at Skyway’s downtown Tampa office. “We’re helping to round out the M&A component for them. They have significant experience in capital raises and we bring a little more in transaction experience to the table.”

Marty Traber, chairman, Skyway Capital Markets (Photo credit: Todd Bates)

Cahill is “a classic investment banker with an incredibly diverse network,” said Marty Traber, chairman of Skyway, one of the fastest-growing companies in the Tampa Bay area. Skyway was No. 2,316 on the 2018 Inc. 5000, with $8 million in 2017 revenue and three-year growth of 189 percent. “Beth and her network open new opportunities for us. It was an opportunity to grow in the right direction in a quality way.”

There’s a bubble in the M&A climate as baby-boomers look for ways to get value out of the businesses they’ve built over the past 20 or 30 years.

“It’s time for the founder to capitalize or monetize their investment and be able to retire or spread their wealth among their offspring, to get some diversification or the ability to pull back the reins,” Cahill said. “Sometimes they want to grow to the next level. That’s another thing we see a lot of. Founders have built it as far as they can without a capital infusion or someone to steer the ship to a higher growth platform. That’s where we can come in and help to either create the wealth or identify the platform and fund the platform.”

There are plenty of private equity groups that are looking for ways to invest their holdings.

“When I started there were a handful of private equity groups. Now you have had founders who often created their own wealth and created their own private equity,” she said.

“I get an email every third or fourth day from a private equity firm that I have a loose connection with, saying here’s what we’re looking for, here’s what we have to deploy, here’s our metrics. They are reaching in to people like us,” said Traber, a retired Foley & Lardner partner in Tampa with a deep network of his own.

A boutique firm like Skyway tends to have lower fees than the big investment banks while also providing access to senior directors, Traber and Cahill said.

Cahill and her team have completed a wide variety of transactions, both locally and globally. She’s currently working on a deal with a German company that has what could be groundbreaking diagnostic and drug therapy product for arresting Alzheimer’s. Other recent deals include acquisition growth capital for a healthcare services company and the sale of an asphalt milling company.

She’s also involved in deals closer to home. A news release from CEA last March credited Cahill’s team with representing Anchor Insurance in St. Petersburg in a financing transaction.

“I tell my bankers, don’t fly over more money than you’re flying to. They’re here,” she said.

There aren’t a lot of women at the senior managing director level in investment banking. Nationally, women account for less than 17 percent of senior leaders in investment banking, and nine percent of senior executives in private equity, according to CNBC.

“It’s hard and the hours are long,” said Cahill, a single mother with four children, two of them still at home. “You have to make some sacrifices.”

About 90 percent of the people she deals with are men.

“It’s a man’s club in the C-suite and you have to inspire confidence in these very confident CEOs who have built a tremendous business, which is the business you are wanting to help them either exit or assist with their growth,” she said. “They have to be comfortable in your abilities and you have to be comfortable explaining to them your abilities. You have to have a very strong team.”

Cahill sees more opportunities opening up for women in investment banking with the growth of the virtual world, which will allow deals to get done without having to be in the same physical office.

One of the toughest challenges in the business is getting a deal over the finish line, Cahill said. It can take a year or two to complete a deal, and during that time she develops close relationships with clients along the way, doing a lot of hand-holding and answering late night phone calls from worried CEOs.

“Probably what makes me most proud is our clients’ satisfaction. You can see the relief that it’s completed — having nothing to do with the financing at all — it’ s just that it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Cahill said.

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