McIntire’s 2018 Fall Forum to Focus on Private Firms

Fall Forum, “Private Firms—Engines of Growth”What facilitates economic growth? What forces are responsible for spurring innovation across industries? What organizations will solve society’s greatest grand challenges?

The answers often point back to private firms.

The McIntire School’s Fall Forum, “Private Firms—Engines of Growth,” which takes place Oct. 12, from 9 a.m. to noon in Old Cabell Hall, will discuss issues of privately owned businesses. The event, presented by McIntire and the School’s Galant Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Center for Investors and Financial Markets, is free and open to the public.

Two panels, “Private Firm Management: Challenges and Opportunities” and “Private Firm Investing and Ownership: Risk and Rewards,” will take a deep dive on topics introduced in the keynote address delivered by Hiter Harris, Co-Founder of global middle-market M&A advisory firm Harris Williams.

Serving as the first panel’s moderator, McIntire Professor and Galant Center Director Eric Martin says that the conversation will address the management of private companies at various stages of growth. The alumni guest speakers will provide a refreshing counterbalance to the often-heard discourse about large public firms that tends to dominate the bulk of business news headlines.

“Of particular interest might be the contrast in growth pathways experienced by each panelist,” Martin says. “Some happens over many decades, and with others, over a few short years. Has the world changed so that slower growth, once arguably prudent and financially necessary, now exposes firms to greater enterprise risk?”

Other questions that will guide the first panel concern approaches to ownership and leadership that improve sustainability and results, determining what strategies might drive companies away from making poor decisions, and exploring the potential benefits for the alternative of public ownership beyond access to capital.

The second panel, “Private Firm Investing and Ownership: Risk and Rewards,” will concentrate on private equity funds that specialize in acquiring, owning, and operating private firms. Moderated by Richard Tadler (McIntire ’78), Senior Advisor at private equity firm TA Associates, the panel of experienced McIntire alumni will weigh the advantages of operating firms as private concerns rather than as public entities.

Finance Professor David C. Smith says extensive scholarly evidence has shown that private equity funds have improved the operating and financial performance of companies, often those that were previously publicly traded. “Many of the brands that are familiar to us are or have been private equity-owned even though we may not know it, including J. Crew, Burger King, Hertz Corporation, and Hilton Corporation.”

The Forum’s second panel will speak directly to the challenges faced by private equity investors and discuss keys to success and ways to avoid failure.

The discussion is also important for many of those attending the Commerce School, as the event provides a window into many potential future positions. “A significant number of our students—primarily Finance concentrators—go to work at these private equity funds upon or within a couple of years of graduating,” says Smith.

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