Matheson Financial Advisors M&A Forum Report

An impressive group of leaders from top AEC firms across the country gathered at the Matheson Financial Advisors M&A Forum at the Trump International Towers in Chicago last week. The educational focus was on firm growth and shareholder value enhancement, but the attending AEC executives were also entertained and enlightened by an exceptional roster of speakers and some exciting networking events.

The event kicked off Wednesday night with an amusing and informative talk from Fox News journalist Tucker Carlson, who gave his view of the coming presidential election and how its outcome is likely to affect the country and the AEC industry. Carlson said that the Republican field of candidates would have been stronger, but Obama seeemed unbeatable when potential candidates had to decide whether or not to throw their hats in the ring. Now, says Carlson, Obama looks very beatable.

He went on to say that Republicans are so afraid of the direction that the country is headed, they’re desperate for a candidate who will tell it to them straight. However, Carlson said, presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney is probably not that guy. Another problem for Romney, said Carlson, is that he and Obama are the only two people in the entire country who have signed a law requiring an individual mandate for health insurance. As a result, he said, Romney will have a difficult time exploiting Obama’s biggest weakness — the universal health care legislation.

Other keynotes included Peter Knipe of STV, who discussed the history of how his firm became 100% ESOP owned; Robert Gomes of Stantec, who gave a comprehensive overview of the growth strategy that propelled the firm from a 600-person Canadian firm 25 years ago to one of the largest firms in North America; and Andrew Busch, who closed the conference on Friday with a global outlook on the economy.

In between, general sessions and breakout sessions focused on growing through acquisition, preparing to sell a firm, capitalization strategies and several other strategic factors related to enhancing shareholder value and improving the firm’s (and owners’) future prospects.

The venue was fantastic, with a spectacular city and river view from the 16th floor where the forum were centered. All attendees were also treated to a Chicago White Sox baseball game, viewed from a left field luxury box (and a walk-off game winning hit in the 9th).

Sponsors included Ames & Gough; MBV Law, LLP; Pilot Hill Advisors; and Plante Moran. Firms in attendance ranged from ENR top 20 giants and other high-profile companies to small and mid-sized firms looking to gain an edge on their competition and ensure a stronger future.

For schedule and session descriptions, go to The forum was also “live-tweeted” via @mfamaforum and blogged at


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