Cassel Salpeter & Co. Serves as Financial Advisor in the Sale of Franmar Corporation to Beacon Mobility

Cassel Salpeter & Co., an independent investment banking firm that provides advisory services to middle market and emerging growth companies in the United States and worldwide, today announced that it has successfully advised Franmar Corporation (“Franmar”), a South Florida provider of school bus transportation, in its sale to Beacon Mobility (“Beacon”), which provides outsourced transportation services for adults and schoolchildren across the United States, backed by the Audax Group.

Since its inception over forty years ago, Franmar has emphasized its devotion to delivering safe, reliable student transportation in its effort to be the most dependable transportation provider in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties. It is based in Cutler Bay, Fla.

Beacon, an expanding network of companies headquartered in Wilbraham, Mass., serves its customers’ diverse needs by providing transportation solutions for school districts, special education programs, charter services, regional transit authorities and non-emergency medical programs, as well as managed services.

“Having grown up in Miami and ridden on Franmar busses throughout my childhood, it was great to find a buyer in Beacon that will carry on the legacy that was built by Fran Martinelli. With further investment, Beacon has unlimited potential in the growing South Florida market,” said Managing Director Philip Cassel, who led the process helping Franmar negotiate the transaction and assisting throughout the due diligence and closing process. Tahz Rashid from Cassel Salpeter assisted with the transaction.

“It was a pleasure to work with the Cassel Salpeter team. They helped us keep the process moving forward and met the transaction timeline, while allowing us to focus on the business without interruption. It really felt like they had our back throughout the entire process,” added Franmar founder Fran Martinelli.

Other professionals who assisted in closing the transaction include Danielle Price, Isabel Diaz, Sydney Landers and Alexa Duarte of Holland & Knight LLP, counsel to the seller, and Albert Sueiras of the accounting firm Sueiras & Amador. The buyer was represented by David Duke, Chief Commercial Officer at Beacon and Amanda Tonelli, Manager of Mergers & Acquisitions at Beacon, as well as Foley & Lardner LLP and Anderson & Kreiger LLP, together counsel to the buyer.

2022 Florida Sponsor Report

Startup funding will be more competitive after Silicon Valley Bank collapse

By Ashley Portero

March 14, 2023

Raising money for a startup can be challenging in the best environment.

But founders should expect more competition than ever after the failure of Silicon Valley Bank.

The California bank was a major player in the technology and venture capital industry before it was seized by federal regulators last week. The bank’s failure — the second largest in U.S. history — reverberated across South Florida’s startup scene and sent founders scrambling to secure funds for payroll and other expenses.

Silicon Valley Bank, which opened a branch in the Brickell Financial District last year, worked with a number of local ventures, including medical tech firm Neocis and elder tech startup Papa. It also signed on as a partner of the eMerge Americas conference, a global technology conference taking place in Miami Beach next month.

It’s unclear if the bank failure will delay or impact the eMerge conference. A representative did not respond to a request for comment.

Miami-based Papa had minimal exposure to the bank collapse, a spokesperson told Miami Inno. A majority of the startup’s funds are held at another bank.

On Monday U.S. regulators said it would insure all of the deposits at the Silicon Valley Bank in a move to promote confidence in the nation’s banking system. Under the plan all depositors, even those whose holdings exceed the $250,000 insurance limit, can access their funds. The government stressed the deposits will not be covered by taxpayers, but will come from a $100 billion fund set up after the 2008 financial crisis.

Several startups affiliated with accelerator Endeavor Miami were depositors at Silicon Valley Bank, said Managing Director Claudia Duran. The news that deposits would be covered was a relief, but she is still advising founders to monitor their costs and prepare for a challenging funding environment.

“They should reach out to their current investors if they need funding or ensure that their financials are in order before pitching their business to potential investors,” Duran said.

Four of Fuel Venture Capital’s 33 portfolio companies had exposure to Silicon Valley Bank, said Managing Partner Maggie Vo. The Miami-based venture capital firm has been in communication with those businesses to come up with contingency plans, if needed. So far, none of the companies are at financial risk. However, the firm is advising those businesses to forecast their minimum cash requirements as a precaution.

Vo said being headquartered in Miami is a factor that reduced the firm’s exposure to the bank failure.

“Most founders in Miami have a relationship with SVB but it’s not the only bank that companies turn to,” she said. “You’ll find a little bit more diversity by nature because we’re here.”

Entrepreneurs should remember that investors are going to be hyper-focused on minimizing risk. Founders should be in frequent communication with their current investors and focus on highlighting the value proposition of their product to customers.

“This will test the founders and their ability to bounce back and be resilient during tough times,” Vo said. “This is a factor investors will look into before backing a company.”

James Cassel, chairman and co-founder of Miami-based investment banking firm Cassel Salpeter & Co., said it was too soon to know what the long-term impact could be for the region’s tech economy. As of now, it’s unclear how many local companies had relationships with Silicon Valley Bank.

“A large part of the fallout may be based on the psychological effect of the collapse,” he said. “Keep in mind that before the last few days, tech companies and biotech companies were already in a challenging environment to raise capital.”

At the end of the day, great companies will always stand out, said Florida Funders Partner Saxon Baum.

He expects other debt providers will eventually emerge to replace Silicon Valley Bank and become larger players in the state’s tech ecosystem. Fewer checks may be written, but the capital is still there to back innovative ventures.

“I think that the best founders and their companies will still be effective in raising money,” he said.

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Banks seek to reassure South Florida depositors their accounts are safe

By David Lyons

March 13, 2023

There’s no need for South Florida consumers to make a run on their local banks, even though the stock prices of financial institutions large and small took a pounding on Wall Street, industry executives and advisers said Monday.

Between federal insurance and the strength of the region’s financial institutions, bank customers can be confident that their money is safe after regulators took over two banks in California and New York during the weekend.

“The depositors have nothing to be concerned about because all of our banks in South Florida are very strong,” said Ken Thomas, a longtime analyst who is president of Community Development Fund Advisors in Miami.

“Any bank with an FDIC label is really safe,” Thomas said, referring to the industry-backed Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. fund that protects accounts up to $250,000.

[ RELATED: President Biden tells US to have confidence in banks after Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank collapse ]

That is, unless the person is a stockholder in the “banks that have taken hits.”

Those banks — Silicon Valley Bank of Santa Clara, California, and Silvergate Bank of New York — were designated as risks to the banking system by the federal government over the weekend, a move that empowered regulators to shore up uninsured deposits. Authorities also created a new path to funding for any bank in need of additional cash.

Nonetheless, bank executives were busy speaking to their customers on Monday to calm their nerves and reassure them that the Silicon Valley Bank and Silvergate Bank takeovers did not constitute a repeat of the financial collapse of 2008, when bad housing loans nearly tanked the entire economy.

“My sense is that a lot of bankers and executives are reaching out to their client base,” said attorney Greg Bader, who advises banks for the Gunster law firm in Fort Lauderdale.” The Florida Bankers Association is supporting its members. The association is coordinating efforts to provide outreach to depositors to give them information so they can see the state of the industry and reassure them about the government efforts that took place.”

“I’d have to say hats off to them,” he said of federal regulators. “They did a very good job of backstopping depositors here.”

But Bader cautioned there could be more failures of banks whose investment situations mirror those of Silicon Valley and Silvergate.

“I certainly don’t think the couple of banks that have failed so far are the last ones,” he said. “There will be definitely more, in my opinion.”

That’s due to the “dramatic rise in interest rates over a short period of time,” which forced the value of bonds purchased by the banks as investments to decline.

Letter of reassurance

Keith Costello, CEO and co-founder of Locality Bank in Fort Lauderdale, which became operational just last year, sent a letter to his customers and investors declaring their money is safe while the bank is in “excellent shape.”

“Fortunately, we are a new FDIC-insured bank, which puts us in a very strong position,” he wrote.

The executive explained that Silicon Valley Bank and Silvergate Bank “took significant losses in the securities they held on their balance sheet. When this was disclosed, and they announced that they needed to raise capital to make up for the losses, depositors panicked and withdrew funds rapidly.”

Costello said Locality’s position is on the opposite end of the spectrum.

“We have been operating in the new higher interest rate environment since we opened in January of last year,” he wrote. “We don’t have a portfolio of low-interest securities or loans. And we are extremely liquid, having only just started.”

[ RELATED: A major bank failed. Here’s why it’s not 2008 again ]

In a telephone interview, Costello said he had been up since 4 a.m. Monday speaking to customers.

“Thankfully the FDIC and the Treasury and Federal Reserve all announced a solution which is what we would expect them to do at a time like this, which is to guarantee that depositors are protected,” he said. “I put myself out there with all of our clients. That’s all people want to do is have a conversation with somebody.”

Keep your eggs in many baskets

Still, Costello is recommending that people should look to establish “multiple bank relationships” instead of keeping their money in one place.

“No matter how big a bank is [remember 2009], they are not immune,” he said in his letter. “The best defense is the old expression, ‘Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket’, especially with the price of eggs!”

John Heller, a Fort Lauderdale-based CPA and director at Marcum, the public accounting and business advisory firm, agreed that multiple individuals and business operators should do business with more than one bank, particularly given the $250,000 ceiling for FDIC-insured deposits.

“I don’t know what percentage of individuals have more than $250,000 in any one bank.” Heller said. “It’s really the businesses that need to be more concerned.”

If there is a run on a bank that’s holding an account owner’s last $10,000 or $1,000 and there’s no access, the depositor is stuck.

“If they need it tomorrow, that’s not helpful,” Heller said.

Consumers weren’t the only ones who were worried after the weekend of regulatory maneuvering in Washington.

[ RELATED: Will it take market crash for Congress to raise debt limit? ]

There is an unknown number of South Florida businesses that are customers of Silicon Valley Bank, which caters to technology company startups. The bank opened a branch on Brickell Avenue in Miami two years ago to take advantage of the city’s growing technology sector.

In a buoyant September 2021 news release, the bank announced its arrival with “a team of commercial bankers” to lend money to participants in “Florida’s dynamic innovation sector.”

The company said it was working with “several hundred Florida-based technology and life science companies and investors,” providing commercial banking, private banking and wealth management services “to technology and life sciences companies of all sizes and their investors.”

Regardless of what happens to the bank, Heller pointed out, borrowers will still have to repay what they owe.

“They should expect to keep repaying their loan,” he said. “They certainly owe the money and somebody is going to collect it. ”

Those who had business loan applications in progress will likely have to go somewhere else to borrow money.

“Every business should keep two or three banking relationships going for when they need to shop,” Heller said.

Commercial lending continues

Technology aside, the rest of the commercial lending business is doing well in South Florida, namely on the strength of continuing strong employment and the influx of new residents, said Jim Cassel, co-founder and chairman of Cassel Salpeter & Co. of Miami, an independent investment banking firm that helps middle market and emerging growth companies.

The firm announced Monday it helped Quick Shift Capital of Boca Raton obtain money for a financing business that caters to independent used car dealers and wholesalers. The money came from Synovus Bank of Georgia.

“The economy’s still doing very well, driven by the consumer and employment increases.” Cassel said. “The community banks are lending; they are just being a little more cautious.”

Yet, he said, there is a lot of existing commercial debt that will be coming due over the next couple of years, “that has to be financed at significantly higher [interest] rates.”

“If the cash flows have grown, the borrowers can support that,” he added. But he can’t believe that South Florida will be immune to a recession that many believe will be the result of an economic slowdown.

“Maybe Palm Beach and Fisher Island will be fine, and maybe off Las Olas [Boulevard] will be fine,” he said. ”Other places will have an effect. We’ve seen it before.”

Staff writer David Lyons can be reached at


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Deal Opportunities Still Exist in the Lower Middle-Market

By Demitri Diakantonis
March 3,  2023

With daily conversations going on about the lack of deals and a looming recession, how about some positive news? Deals, at least according to one middle-market investment banker, are still happening. But where and how?

“We’re dealing with the lower middle-market, sub-$100M deals,” says James Cassel, co-founder of Miami-based investment bank Cassel Salpeter & Co. “People are being opportunistic. On the buy-side, people are starting to pay lower multiples. We’re starting to see a reset in valuations, but it’s going to take time.”

Cassel Salpeter advises on a number of sectors including aerospace and defense, healthcare and technology.

We knew from the beginning that M&A was going to be a challenge this year. Some dealmakers are hopeful that the second half of the year will be better, but no one has a crystal ball of exactly when conditions will improve. Financing remains a problem with higher interest rates. Fundraising for private equity is sputtering.

On the other hand, environments like this tend to favor strategic buyers who can swoop in at lower prices. And the emergence of family offices – another group with a long-term view – can add to the excitement.

All-in-all though, Cassel sees more of a glass half-full given he works in the lower end of the middle market. “I don’t buy that the world is coming to an end,” he adds. “Deals are getting done, but they’re taking longer to close. People are being cautious. I would say more than half our deals are add-on acquisitions. PE has plenty of plenty of money. Corporates are in good shape from cleaning up their balance sheets.”

What’s your view on the road ahead in the lower middle-market? Will deals pick up or stay flat? Let me know your thoughts at – Demitri Diakantonis

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Corbett Technology Solutions, Inc. Acquired Firecom

  • Background: Firecom, Inc. (“Firecom”), based in Woodside, NY, is the largest fire alarm company in New York City, servicing approximately 800 high-rise buildings, and is one of only five companies in the U.S. to manufacture its own fire life safety systems for high-rise buildings.
  • Cassel Salpeter:
    • Served as financial advisor to the company
    • Ran a highly-focused competitive sales process, identifying and contacting strategic buyers
    • Assisted in the structuring, negotiating, and closing of the transaction
  • Challenges:
    • Maximizing and delivering value for synergies
    • Managing ownership and operational complexities
    • Navigating extensive diligence review process
  • Outcome: In June 2022, Firecom was acquired by Corbett Technology Solutions, Inc. (“CTSI”), a leading provider of communication, collaboration, life-safety, and security solutions for clients across the East Coast.  CTSI is a portfolio company of Wind Point Partners.

Cassel Salpeter & Co. Secures Debt Financing for Quick Shift Capital LLC

Cassel Salpeter & Co., an independent investment banking firm that provides advisory services to middle market and emerging growth companies in the United States and worldwide, today announced that it represented Quick Shift Capital LLC (“Quick Shift”) in securing commercial debt financing from Synovus Bank; the funding is set to support the continued growth of the business.

Quick Shift is a family-owned company headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla. A floorplan financing company founded in 2017, Quick Shift caters to independent used car dealers and wholesalers, with a focus on luxury vehicles, while demonstrating a sustained commitment to service, customer-centric solutions, and innovation. 

“Enabling founders like Zach to grow their business and reach their full potential is why we do the work we do,” said Cassel Salpeter Managing Director Philip Cassel, who led the assignment helping Quick Shift identify and evaluate financing options and assisting throughout the due diligence and closing process. “Zach and his team will achieve great things and I am excited to see the company grow in the years to come.” 

“We partnered with Cassel Salpeter to help us grow our business by exploring financing options,” added Quick Shift President Zach Green. “Phil helped us find an attractive credit facility that more than exceeded our expectations. It was a pleasure working with Phil and I would not hesitate to give Cassel Salpeter our highest recommendations.”

Other professionals who assisted in closing the transaction include Blake Goddard and James Hauck of the Asset-Based Lending, Specialty Finance group of Synovus Bank; Andrew Comiter of Comiter, Singer, Baseman & Braun LLP, Brian Levy of Brian R Levy PA, Michael Ullman of Ullman & Ullman, P.A., together counsel to the borrower; and Ronald Weiner and Anisa Abdullahi of Arnall Golden Gregory LLP, counsel to the lender.

M3 Wake Research acquired MSRA Company

  • Background: Multi-Specialty Research Associates (“MSRA”), based in Lake City, FL, is a founder-owned clinical research site, conducting Phase I-IV clinical trials. Since its inception, MSRA, a leader in clinical trials, has conducted clinical trials for leading sponsors in therapeutics, vaccines and diagnostics.
  • Cassel Salpeter:
    • Served as financial advisor to the company
    • Ran a focused, competitive sales process, identifying and contacting strategic and financial buyers
    • Successfully identified a strategic buyer interested in expanding its operations in Florida
    • Was extensively involved in the process from buyer selection through closing
  • Challenges:
    • Expedited sale and due dilligence process to ensure the sellers timeline was met
    • Balancing seller’s objectives to maximize value while preserving organizational structure
  • Outcome: In May 2022, MSRA was acquired by M3 Wake Research, headquartered in Raleigh, NC, an integrated organization of premier investigational sites, with over 16 research locations throughout the U.S.