How businesses should conduct themselves socially in politically polarized times

By James S. Cassel

Growing at a furious pace, political polarization in America is creating a seemingly unbridgeable rift. Since President Trump’s election, the majority of likely voters believe America is more divided, and 31 percent think we may experience a civil war in the next five years, according to a recent Rasmussen Reports.

Given the highly charged political climate evident in the recent elections, when sensitive issues come up in social or business situations, middle-market business owners may want to tread thoughtfully — or risk losing business and friends, as well as their reputation.

There are several approaches a business can adopt to navigate political landmines, but the first step is for companies to make a conscious, deliberate decision on how to proceed.

One option is to avoid politics altogether. If, at a gathering, a politically charged issue like immigration, gun control, or healthcare comes up, simply don’t go there. Diplomatically deflect and redirect to common ground that everybody can agree on, such as the value of good schools.

However, avoiding politics also means carefully monitoring social media content. Google, Facebook and LinkedIn are usually the first stops for people you meet, and those platforms should reflect neutrality. As the saying goes, “social media is like a glass house and when you live in a glass house you must dress the part.” With profiles subject to ongoing scrutiny, people may not want to do business with you based on a post charged with political innuendo. Much care should be taken to filter out politics from online discourse if neutrality is what you have chosen.

Another alternative is taking a stance. For example, you may be willing to risk the loss of both customers and employees who are not like-minded. Not for the faint-hearted, this choice requires the courage to stick to your convictions, like the baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple and whose decision was upheld by the Supreme Court; or like Nike taking on the controversial Colin Kaepernik, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who kneeled in protest, for its commemorative 30-year “Just Do It” campaign.

As you decide if taking a stance is the right option for your business, consider the ramifications with those whose views are diametrically opposed to yours. For many, principles and doing what they feel is the right thing may be more important than maintaining or expanding a client base. If that’s the case, you may be surprised to find you might actually gain new business from people who share your beliefs.

A word of caution: the last approach should never be an excuse for undermining people with viewpoints that differ from yours. Be inclusive. Agree to disagree in a way that is civilized, thoughtful, and respectful of the rights and beliefs of others. Failure to do so not only runs counter to our democratic principles but can hurt you and your business’s image — even among clients who share your political inclination.

Regardless of the approach you adopt, establishing clear workplace policies will help guide employees with their own political agendas in the office or at networking or other business events.

Speaking with your company’s lawyers to get a comprehensive picture of federal and state laws governing what employers can do in relation to their employees is also important. As a general rule, businesses may have policies in place prohibiting all forms of solicitation, including political campaigning in the workplace. Speak to your employees about social media: help them understand the potential implications, both for your company, and for them as professionals. While you can’t necessarily dictate the content they post personally, you can develop clear rules regarding how social media should be used on the job.

In this era of unprecedented political divisiveness, it is essential for business owners to thoughtfully choose how they proceed. When confronted with emotionally-charged subjects, they must be prepared. Although employees cannot and should not be forced to adopt your political views, establishing pertinent guidelines for workplace and company-related social events can minimize sending conflicting signals.

James S. Cassel is co-founder and chairman of Cassel Salpeter & Co., LLC, an investment-banking firm with headquarters in Miami that works with middle- market companies. He may be reached at or via LinkedIn at

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Aviation Deal Report Q3 2018

Why Technology Won’t Make Investment Bankers Obsolete

By Danielle Fugazy

With the explosion of technology, the question of what an investment bank’s role will be in the M&A process in 25 years from now is not a crazy one.

“You can take some guidance from looking at where banking was 25 years ago. There was huge information asymmetry. There were no web sites to find information on funds and you couldn’t compare groups so easily,” says Bryan Cummings, a managing director and head of financial sponsor coverage with D.A. Davidson. “Today, there are many more private equity firms to know and they have to work harder to convince business owners to sell to them. All this competition has driven more transparency in the marketplace. When you think about the future, it’s hard to think there won’t be more capital and more competition. Deals will be highly sought after. Buyers will have to figure how to portray themselves as the best in the sea of buyers and investment bankers have to figure out how to portray themselves as the best, most trusted advisor who will get the seller the highest price. How do they do that?”

Some argue technology will help and that it will play a larger role in helping investment banks do their job. The theory goes something like this: Through various technologies such as AI, automation, and big data, computer programs will be able to do much of what bankers spend their time doing today. Some believe technology will be able to spit out comprehensive buyer lists, and that they will be more comprehensive and precise than anything a human would be able to produce.

Lots of industries are using artificial intelligence today and more are expected to embrace the technology in the future. According to Hampleton Research, the AI market size is forecast to grow from $21.46 billion in 2018 to a whopping $190 billion by 2025 at a CAGR of 36.62 percent. While technology is slow to take hold of the banking industry, it is happening. According to an MIT Technology Review article, the U.S. equity trading desk at Goldman Sach’s New York headquarters employed 600 traders. Today they employ two; 598 traders have been replaced by automated trading programs and they are supported by 200 computer engineers. Apparently, 45 percent of the revenue from cash equities comes from electronic trades. Complex algorithms are being built that can understand what a trader would do, not just across equities but even asset classes like currencies and credit. AI has already been used by hedge funds in stock trading, according to Imarticus Learning Inc.

More technology and less human interaction wouldn’t be so different than what happened in the travel industry, for example, where the travel agent’s role became diminished with the invention of online travel booking services like and Airbnb. In the mortgage industry, sites like and have forced mortgage brokers to change how they do business.

However, some argue that just because technology can provide more information doesn’t mean it will be more useful to sellers. “Even if a computer can show a seller 1,000 potential buyers, why is that more helpful than showing the seller 100 of the right buyers? The computer can’t evaluate how a buyer handles closing negotiations or what the players will likely do, but a banker will have some past experience that will shed light on behaviors,” says Cummings.

The reality is many believe buyers and sellers will still want to work with investment banks and will favor those who use technology to enhance the process. Investment banking is dependent on human emotion, which is unique.  “The middle market and the lower middle market is still a very human business. Technology is enhancing what we do, but not replacing us,” says Cummings. “You still have to personalize the experience.”

Many believe bankers will play an important role moving forward. Algorithms or AI still require human input to make sure their suggestions make sense and that the right questions are being asked. What’s more, algorithms can’t negotiate. The human touch is essential in helping buyers and sellers come to terms for a deal.

James Cassel, chairman of Cassel Salpeter & Co., argues that most bankers are already using technology to their advantage already. “Many firms are already using tools like Capital IQ and Axial to help get information on buyers and sellers. It’s become much easier to put together a buyers list and gather intelligence. Technology will continue to make this easier, and more efficient, but those lists still need to be vetted by a human.”

A human voice is needed to tell the story. “Companies are complicated. You can’t just send a one-pager. Having the technology speeds up the processes, but there has to be a balance between the personal and the impersonal. Bankers are now challenged with finding the right balance between doing their jobs and using technology to help their clients to the best of their ability. Technology should continue to be an enhancement to good service, not the answer to providing it,” says Cassel.

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Palm Beach County pharmaceutical company files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

By Ashley Portero

Riviera Beach-based Sancilio Pharmaceuticals Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June, and recently closed two asset sales in Delaware.

The Ocean Blue division of the company, a producer of fish oil supplements, was purchased by K.D. Pharma Group for $2.5 million in a sale that closed in August.

Micelle Biopharma paid $19.2 million cash for Altemia and the ALT Platform, a phase three-ready product for sickle-cell disease. It also purchased Sancilio’s plants, lab and prenatal and dental portfolio of prenatal vitamins and fluorides, according to Cassel Salpeter & Co., which advised Sancilio in its Chapter 11 sale of business assets.

The sale saved several Sancilio jobs in Palm Beach County, Cassel Salpeter Chairman James Cassel told the Business Journal in a statement. The Business Journal was unable to reach a representative for Sancilio.

“Many employees that were with Sancilio prior to and during the bankruptcy proceedings were hired by the two acquiring companies,” he said. “As is true with many distressed situations, some of the employees found other places of employment during the pendency of the bankruptcy, while others were offered opportunities with the acquirers.”

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware approved the sale of Sancilio assets to the two buyers in July, Cassel said, adding that a liquidation plan would likely be filed in the case.

In June, Sancilio reported it had about $11.9 million in assets and more than $25 million in liabilities, according to court filings. About $19.2 million of those liabilities wer e secured claims, including almost $19 million to MidCap Financial Services LLC.

Sancilio received $3.8 million in job-creation subsidies from the state, county and city in 2016 as part of a job-growth incentive deal. The company was given $3 million from Florida’s Quick Action Closing Fund, and $825,000 in tax rebates from Florida’s Qualified Target Industry program. In turn, Sancilio said it would retain 149 jobs and create 275 new jobs by mid-2019.

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