CLA Advises Gilman Cheese on Sale to Borgman Capital

  • Preparing for transition
  • 4/15/2019
Gilman Cheese Borgman Capital

Among the owner’s priorities were continuing growth of the employee team, support for the community, and preservation of the company culture. CLA helped find a buyer that was a perfect fit with the owners’ goals.

CLA’s Investment Banking Group professionals served as the trusted advisor to world champion cheese manufacturer Gilman Cheese Corporation on its sale to Borgman Capital, LLC. The combination of these Wisconsin-based groups brings together two organizations with similar values and highlights the importance of finding the right fit for sellers in today’s active M&A marketplace.

Tom Hand, Gilman’s owner, and his wife Char, had been at the business’s helm for nearly 20 years, growing it from less than $5 million in sales to nearly $50 million. They wanted to be very deliberate in their ownership transition.

From the outset, the owners were clear about what mattered to them in a sale. Their priorities included provide further growth opportunities for Gilman’s dedicated employee team, continued support of the Gilman, Wisconsin, community (a town of approximately 400 people and the company’s namesake), preservation of Gilman Cheese’s midwestern values and company culture, and securing the Hands’ financial well-being.

“In many ownership transitions, seller concerns like employee retention, location of operations, and company legacy can fall to the wayside as the deal begins to take shape,” said Ben Axelrod, head of the Investment Banking Group at CLA. “In addition to their desire to maximize the price and terms of the deal, Tom and Char were steadfast in their commitment to these non-price issues throughout the process. We believe that business owners will ultimately come out ahead if they are frank with themselves about what matters most to them in a sale.”

With the seller’s objectives clearly understood, CLA ran a bespoke sale process that garnered strong interest in Gilman Cheese from multiple buyers. In the end, it was the alignment of visions for Gilman’s future that carried the day for Borgman Capital and its partners, Johnson Bank and Tecum Capital.

“We’re fortunate that we were able to bring a buyer to the table that had such a strong connection with our client. There were a number of parties that were incredibly impressive, and we were glad to bring a number of great options to Tom and Char,” said Derek Murphy of CLA.

Tom Hand expressed his satisfaction with the result. “Simply put, I do not know how Char and I could have even started this process, let alone complete it with such satisfactory results, without the help of Ben and Derek and the rest of the team,” he said. “Their knowledge, experience, and professionalism were exemplary.”

In addition to the investment banking professionals, the CLA team included professionals from a number of disciplines across the firm: assurance (Mike Lensmire), sell-side due diligence (Joe Baez and Adrian Nohr), and tax (Dean Johnson and Jason Flattum).

Stewart Etten and his team from Wausau-based law firm Ruder Ware acted as Gilman’s trusted legal counsel on the transaction.  

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