The co-founders and alumni of Bowles Hollowell Conner & Co. will be in town next month for the first-ever reunion of the trailblazing investment bank that helped power the growth of Charlottes middle-market financial sector.
Founded by Charlotte businessmen Erskine Bowles, Tom Hollowell and Charles Conner in 1975, the firm was one of the first investment banks to target mid-sized businesses rather than large corporations. Over the next 20 years, Bowles Hollowell Conner would become a nationally prominent investment bank closing on $3 billion worth of deals per year.
First Union, the Charlotte bank that would become part of Wachovia and then Wells Fargo, bought Bowles Hollowell Conner in 1998.
It was the pre-eminent, top-shelf middle-market investment bank in the U.S., and everybody knew it as such, said Drew Quartapella, a former Bowles Hollowell Conner investment banker whos now managing director at BlackArch Partners. It was tough to get a job there, and people who did had launching pads for their careers.
Bowles would go on to be White House chief of staff in the Clinton administration, and later president of the University of North Carolina system. Hollowell co-founded Charlotte investment bank Fidus Partners, and Conner served on the board of Charlotte investment bank Edgeview Partners.
And the scores of bankers who passed through Bowles Hollowell Conners doors have gone on to create a cluster of boutique investment banks in Charlotte that have set the city apart as a national center for middle-market banking.
Serving that market means looking to make deals between $5 million and $250 million. In some deals, private equity investors will buy a business. Other times investors will put in capital for an expansion.
Quartapella said he had been thinking about getting the group together for years. Meanwhile, the Charlotte chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth -- an organization primarily made up of bankers and private equity professionals -- had been looking for a signature event, and both thought the two would work well together.
This is probably the capital of middle market investment banking, if not the middle market itself, said Tim Whitmire, a former Observer reporter who is president of the ACG chapter and director of business development and integration at DealCloud. DealCloud is an online platform for streamlining mergers and acquisitions.
He said Bowles Hollowell Conner and the investment banks that sprang up after its sale have drawn private equity groups, banking teams from megabanks, law firms and accountants to create a part of the financial infrastructure that helps define Charlotte today. You could argue that none of that could exist without Bowles Hollowell Conner.
The three co-founders will be honored with lifetime achievement awards by the Association for Corporate Growth on Oct. 14 at an event at the Westin Hotel uptown. Bowles Hollowell Conner alums will gather at the Halcyon Restaurant later that night.
Quartapella says he expects about 150 to be there. Attendees will likely range from a man who now runs a private equity firm in Bahrain to Bowles former assistant of 20 years who now lives in western North Carolina.
The next day, boutique investment bankers will meet with a slate of private equity firms in a Deal Crawl, as the ACG puts it. Bankers look to match businesses they represent with investors looking to make deals.
Dunn: 704-358-5235 Twitter: @andrew_dunn
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