10 Names to Bank On in Changing Times

Despite one sizable change of heart — Comcast’s decision to withdraw its plan to merge with Time Warner Cable — the deal market didn’t disappoint in 2015, with three major transactions valued at more than $100 billion crossing the transom and more expected to enter the pipeline this year. While Charter Communications dominated the space with its pending $78.7 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable and $10.5 billion buy of Bright House Networks, other deals and players entered the fray late in the year.

Topping the list is European telco Altice Group, which completed its $9.1 billion buy of Suddenlink Communications in January and has targeted a first-half 2016 close for its pending $17.7 billion purchase of Cablevision Systems. Next is Crestview Partners’s $100 million investment in overbuilder WideOpenWest, a deal that brought cable veteran Jeff Marcus back into the business. Cable wasn’t the only industry undergoing a consolidation phase, though, as evidenced by several large TV-station group deals, including Nexstar Broadcasting’s pending $4.6 billion purchase of Media General.

While the deals have come fast and furious, and that pace is expected to continue through 2016, it has also been a period of great market volatility. Programmer stocks have been hammered as viewers look to access content via platforms other than traditional TV, and both networks and distributors are scrambling to solidify their positions and improve cost efficiencies. It’s never been more important to tap the most knowledgeable industry minds to navigate the ever-changing landscape.

With that in mind, Multichannel News introduces for the fifth consecutive year, the Money All-Stars, our annual [alphabetical] listing of the top men and women in the investment banking, private equity and financial advisory space.

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Ben Braun

Title: Partner, LionTree Advisors

Background: Prior to LionTree, Braun was head of Media and Telecommunications mergers and acquisitions for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which he joined in 1997. Braun has represented clients across a wide range of industry sectors, including cable, music, entertainment, TV and radio broadcasting, digital media, advertising, information services and telecommunications. Braun earned his MBA from the Amos Tuck School at Dartmouth College, where he graduated with honors as an Amos Tuck Scholar.

Notable Tranactions: The Madison Square Garden Co.’s spinoff of MSG Networks; CPP’s acquisition of a stake in Entertainment One; Sprint’s sale to Softbank; Marvel Entertainment’s sale to The Walt Disney Co.; Cablevision Systems’s spinoffs of AMC Networks and MSG; Knology’s sale to WideOpenWest; Insight Communications’s sale to Time Warner Cable; Paetec’s sale to Windstream and Level 3 Communications’s acquisition of Global Crossing.

Gil Ha

Title: Managing Director and Head of Telecom Advisory, Greenhill & Co.

Background: Prior to joining Greenhill, Ha served as a senior managing director at Evercore Partners; as a partner of Rohatyn Associates; as co-head of Deutsche Bank’s Telecommunications Investment Banking Group for the Americas; and as a managing director of Lazard in New York. Prior to becoming an investment banker, Ha was a senior consultant at Accenture.

He holds an MBA with high honors from Columbia University Business School in New York and received bachelor of science degrees in Electrical Engineering with Highest Distinction from Columbia University School of Engineering and in Physics from Allegheny College, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Notable Transactions: Ha specializes in providing financial and strategic advice to corporate clients and has extensive experience in mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, leveraged finance and restructuring transactions. Over the years, he has advised on some of the largest and most seminal transactions in the Telecom, Media and Technology sector, including AT&T’s acquisition of BellSouth; SBC’s acquisition of AT&T; Cingular’s acquisition of AT&T Wireless; the formation of Cingular Wireless JV; SBC’s acquisition of Pacific Telesis; SBC’s acquisition of Sterling Commerce; the sale of Equant to France Telecom; the breakup of US West; the sale of MCI to WorldCom; US West’s investment in Time Warner Entertainment; and MCI’s strategic investment in News Corp. Other selected transactions he has advised on since joining Greenhill include: AT&T’s divestitures of Connecticut wireline operations (to Frontier Communications); Sterling Commerce (to IBM); AT&T Japan (to IIJ) and the withdrawn $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile US; Australia’s AUD$40 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) initiative; the government of Norway on its telecom holdings; and Independent Board Committee of Telecom Italia on potential merger with H3G (Hutchinson’s Italian mobile business).

M&A Outlook: “I anticipate significant M&A activities in Europe, particularly in the telecom sector.”

David Lomer

Title: Co-Head of M&A for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, J.P. Morgan.

Background: Lomer has worked at J.P. Morgan and its predecessor companies since 1997, when he started his investment-banking career in M&A. His early experience was in London and Madrid before moving to San Francisco and New York to focus on large cap telecoms and media clients, executing Comcast’s $72 billion acquisition of AT&T Broadband and other transactions for clients including Liberty Media, The Walt Disney Co., Charter Communications and Cox Communications.

Notable Transactions: Lomer has most recently been based in London, where he was co-head of the Telecoms, Media & Technology investment- banking team, which he helped to build into the leading practice in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He has recently advised on Altice’s $82 billion reorganization merger, Virgin Media’s $24 billion sale to Liberty Global and Ziggo’s $10 billion sale to Liberty Global.

Gregory Miller

Title: Managing Director and Head of Media, Greenhill & Co.

Background: Prior to joining Greenhill in 2004, he was a managing director at Credit Suisse, where he worked for more than 14 years, also focusing on the media sector. Over the past two decades, he has worked with many of the world’s leading media companies, including Scholastic, Gannett, Tegna, IAC, Dentsu, Viacom, The Walt Disney Co., Bertelsmann, Lagardère, Vivendi, Thomson Reuters, Moody’s Investors Service, FactSet, Wolters Kluwer, Informa, DMGT, Cheil and many others. He has advised a wide range of consumer and professional companies on more than 100 mergers and acquisitions and capital-raising transactions in all segments of the industry.

Miller received his J.D. from Yale Law School in 1993 and a B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from the University of Notre Dame in 1987.

Notable Transactions: Gannett’s spinoff of its publishing division, which created two separate public companies: broadcasting/digital (now known as Tegna) and publishing (Gannett); Gannett’s acquisition of Cars.com; Scholastic’s sale of its education technology division to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; also completed transactions in television production, consumer book publishing, professional information, digital media, events and other media segments.

M&A Outlook: “Many leading media players over the past couple of years have unlocked substantial shareholder value by separating businesses that have little operational or sector overlap and different growth profiles. Some have accomplished this separation via sales of non-core assets, and others have pursued spinoffs to create focused, publicly traded companies with capital structures consistent with their profiles and capital needs. I expect this trend will continue, partly fueled by activists, in the coming year.”

John Momtazee

Title: Managing Director and Founding Partner, Moelis & Co.

Background: Since co-founding Moelis & Co. in 2007, Momtazee has advised clients across several media sectors, including diversified media, cable television, broadcast television, broadcast radio, digital media, entertainment, publishing and outdoor advertising. Momtazee has advised and financed many of the largest, most sophisticated media clients and worked extensively with leading financial sponsors.

Prior to Moelis & Co., Momtazee was a managing director in the Global Media Group and the head of Broadcasting Investment Banking at UBS Investment Bank. Momtazee was previously an investment banker at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette and then served as chief financial officer of The .TV Corp. In 2009, Momtazee was honored as one of Investment Dealers’ Digest’s “40 Under 40.”

Notable Transactions: Fairway sale to Lamar; KLAS-TV (Landmark) sale to Nexstar; KASW-TV (Meredith) sale to Nexstar; YMF Media sale to Emmis; 600-MHz auction spectrum advisory for Tegna; 600-MHz auction spectrum advisory for Sinclair Broadcast Group; Allbritton sale to Sinclair; Media General TV station divestitures to Sinclair, Meredith and Hearst; Tribune restructuring (advised UCC).

Michael Ronen

Title: Co-Chief Operating Officer of the Global Technology, Media and Telecom Group, Goldman Sachs, responsible for the media and telecom M&A business in the Americas

Background: Ronen joined Goldman Sachs in 1998 as an associate in the Communications, Media and Entertainment Group and later became its business unit manager, subsequently joining the Merger Leadership Group to work with many of the firm’s media, telecom and technology clients. From 2008 to 2010, he was also responsible for developing the firm’s M&A-related derivatives business within the Americas Financing Group. Ronen was named managing director in 2006 and partner in 2012.

Prior to joining the firm, Ronen served in the Israeli Air Force Intelligence Corps and later practiced law as an attorney in Israel, specializing in bankruptcies and financial restructurings.

He earned an LLB (JD) from Tel Aviv University in 1994 and an MBA, with distinction, from the Stern School of Business at New York University in 1998.

Notable Transactions: Media General sale to Nexstar ($4.6 billion, 2016); Activision Blizzard acquisition of King Digital ($5.9 billion, 2015); AT&T acquisitions of Nextel and Iusacell in Mexico (2014 and 2015, $2.5 billion and $1.9 billion); Vivendi’s sale of GVT to Telefónica ($10 billion, 2014); Softbank’s acquisition of Sprint ($20 billion, 2012).

M&A Outlook: “On the back of a few years of strong M&A activity in the TMT space, we continue to see significant consolidation opportunities in many areas of the Media and Telecom landscape. Secular headwinds will continue to pressure traditional media companies and their distribution partners (cable and satellite) to increase scale and remove fixed costs. The exponential growth in online and mobile consumption of content will further induce the traditional players to invest outside their comfort zones. Finally, inbound and outbound cross-border activity will also continue to influence the M&A market, with U.S. companies investing foreign cash overseas and foreign investors looking to capitalize on relatively strong secular trends in the U.S. vs. Europe and the rest of the world.”

Brent Rosenthal

Title: Partner, W.R. Huff Asset Management

Background: Prior to joining Huff in 2002, Rosenthal served as director of mergers & acquisitions for RSL Communications. Previously, he served emerging media companies for Deloitte & Touche. He is a certified public accountant and received an MBA from the Johnson School at Cornell University and an undergraduate degree in accounting from Lehigh University.

Notable Transactions: In 2003, Rosenthal authored an internal Huff white paper about the problems in media measurement, and subsequently identified Rentrak as a platform company to capitalize on this trend. He spearheaded Huff’s investment in Rentrak, led the overhaul of its management team and board of directors, and worked closely with the new management team to reinvent the company. Rosenthal joined Rentrak’s board in 2008 and has served its non-executive chairman since 2011. Rentrak completed its merger with comScore on Jan. 29 and, following the closing, Rosenthal joined comScore’s board as chairman of the Audit Committee.

Rosenthal also serves as a special adviser to the board of Park City Group and on the boards of several private Hispanic food companies. From 2006 to 2012, he served as a strategic adviser to Virgin Media’s directors and executive management, providing turnaround and crisis-management services, as well as operational and financial analysis and recommendations. From 2007 to 2010, he advised Time Warner Inc.’s executive management. In 2009, Multichannel News named Rosenthal to its annual “40 Under 40” list of influential executives.

M&A Outlook: “Traditional media companies must continue to modernize product offerings, streamline internal operations and fortify economies of scale to effectively react to the accelerating media fragmentation and the consumer’s rapidly changing media consumption habits. Also, new media companies require greater scale to effectively compete against these large traditional media companies. Therefore, the current media M&A mega-cycle will continue at the same torrid pace for the next few years.”

Alan Schwartz

Title: Executive chairman, Guggenheim Partners, and chairman, Guggenheim Securities

Background: Schwartz joined Bear Stearns in 1976 at the age of 26 after an injury to his pitching arm ended his chances of professional baseball; he was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds after graduating from Duke University in 1972, but never reported because of the injury. He worked his way up to leading the firm’s research department in 1979 and heading up its investment banking department in 1985. Schwartz was named CEO of Bear Stearns in 2008 after its stock cratered in the wake of the collapse of two of its hedge funds. Despite efforts to turn around the firm, the Federal Reserve forced its sale later that year to J.P. Morgan as the global financial crisis worsened. He joined Guggenheim Partners in June 2009 and has quickly built the boutique firm into one of the biggest players in the M&A space with clients like the Walt Disney Co., Verizon Communications, Charter Communications and Tribune Media.

Notable Transactions: Represented Verizon Communications in its $130 billion purchase of the remaining stake in Verizon Wireless from Vodafone; represented Verizon in its $4.4 billion purchase of AOL; financial adviser to Cablevision Systems in its pending $17.7 billion sale to Altice; financial adviser to Charter Communications in its pending $78.7 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable; co-manager to Tribune Media in its $517.4 million follow-on offering; financial adviser to Verizon in its $10.5 billion sale of wireline business in California, Florida and Texas to Frontier Communications.

Chris Ventresca

Title: Global Co-Head of Mergers & Acquisitions, J.P. Morgan

Background: Ventresca, who started his 27-year career at J.P. Morgan, was named North American co-head of M&A in 2008 and global co-head of M&A in 2013. He has advised on more than $1 trillion of announced M&A transactions during his career, including a variety of strategic acquisitions, mergers and sales, as well as a number of hostile defenses and shareholder activism situations. He received an MBA in Finance from the New York University Stern School of Business and a BSE in Electrical Engineering from Princeton University.

Notable Transactions: In the media and telecom space, Ventresca has advised on Comcast’s announced acquisition of Time Warner Cable (withdrawn in April 2015); Verizon’s acquisition of Vodafone’s 45% stake in Verizon Wireless; Virgin Media’s merger with Liberty Global and Verizon’s sale of its tower assets to American Tower Corp.