Ripples from China’s woes swaying Miami

By: Carla Vianna
August 25, 2015

Although Greece’s debt crisis and China’s volatile stock market are phenomena occurring thousands of miles away, Miami’s increasingly global business and financial communities feel the ripple effects of issues toying with the global economy.

While the contagion effect by Greece may be minimal, China’s ups and downs are felt worldwide.

“It’s not what happens in Greece, it’s what happens after,” said Tom Balcom, founder of 1650 Wealth Management, a private wealth management firm. “Are other countries going to leave also? Who absorbs the loss, and how will that affect the markets?”

Mr. Balcom spoke of fears surrounding a Grexit, or a Greek withdrawal from the eurozone. However, since Greece is such a tiny part of the currency union, direct impact would be minimal, local economists postulated.

The Greece economy is actually as big as that of the Miami metropolitan area. The European country’s gross domestic product was about $282 billion in 2013, while the Miami metro area had a GDP of $281 billion, fact-checking site Politifact reported.

“The effect is psychological,” said James Cassel, chairman and co-founder of Cassel Salpeter & Co., an investment banking firm. “The Greece economy doesn’t have a direct relationship with South Florida.”

China on the other hand is the world’s second-largest economy, and its increasingly volatile stock market coupled with the recent devaluation of the Chinese yuan has shocked markets across the globe. Fears that China’s economy is slowing have sparked heavy selling in all markets, the Wall Street Journal reported. It’s been a tumultuous week for the US stock market, which plunged Monday and felt a spot of relief Tuesday.

“Some of these currencies have an effect on the real estate market,” Mr. Cassel continued. “The weak Euro might mean less Europeans buying in South Florida.”

There’s a push from developers in Miami hoping to attract Chinese investors, perhaps to cushion an expected European and South American slowdown. Miami – often referred to as a safe haven for international money – may attract flight capital from those in China uncomfortable with the long-term prospect of the economy and Chinese government’s reactions to it, Mr. Cassel said.

As the Chinese currency is adjusted or manipulated, he said, it will affect both the purchasing power in the US and its export potential. When the dollar is strong against the yuan, the US can buy more Chinese products but it also stunts US exports, he explained.

On the flip side, he said, the US economy is strengthening, so more product will be absorbed domestically.

“To be overly concerned about a market that was up 150% and is now down 50%, to me, is a little bit naive,” said senior investment strategist Jonathan Hill with Gibraltar Bank about the Chinese market.

“The recent turmoil is unwelcome, but we have been consistent in anticipating this hike in volatility,” read an email Mr. Hill sent to his investors and clients last week. The email calls the situation a “short-term disruption” and points out that traditionally light summer-trading volumes can leave markets vulnerable to “outsized swings,” which is common in July and August.

Ultimately, the Chinese slowdown can affect the growth of international trade and investments with South Florida’s three major partners: Central America, South America and Europe, said Miami economist Manuel Lasaga. Repercussions will further spill over to the local economy if China’s instability affects global growth, he said.

Mr. Lasaga points to the lack of transparency in how the Chinese economy is faring in the midst of its apparent slowdown as a reason for increased volatility in the market.

“I do think China should continue to grow 6% to 7% this year,” he said. “It’s still going to add momentum to the global economy,” but the momentum will be slower than anticipated.

Succession plans are key to protecting your business when the unthinkable happens

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By James S. Cassel
August 17, 2015

Cassel picture

Although there are probably many things you would rather discuss with your CEO than how to proceed if he or she unexpectedly dies or falls victim to some other tragedy, the fact is that you must. Companies without crisis-succession plans are at significant risk.

History has proved that the way companies handle these crisis situations can make or break them. A 2014 survey by the National Association of Corporate Directors reveals that two-thirds of publicly and privately held companies in America had no succession plan. This is for planned or unplanned succession.

Public companies are more likely and may be required to have succession plans in place, but very few private companies do, particularly those that are family-owned.

Losing a CEO to an unforeseen circumstance such as a tragedy, termination or resignation can create more turmoil than losing a leader to a situation you can see coming, such as a terminal illness or an orderly, planned change. Sudden losses can leave employees and other key stakeholders devastated and bewildered. Without a designated leader or clear path to the future, the business can suffer. This can be particularly disastrous for smaller companies.

While it is not uncommon for people to think their company could never survive the death of the CEO, the fact is that more often than not, it could survive with proper planning. Well strategized, efficiently executed succession plans bring benefits on multiple levels. In addition to providing a roadmap to help your company deal with the crisis, they put investors and shareholders at ease.

Of course, the core of your succession plan should be more than processes — you also must identify who will assume your CEO’s responsibilities. You should build a bench of candidates. In some family businesses, a family member with little history with the company might step in, so it is critical to have a succession plan to ensure the successor has adequate background and knowledge.

You also will have to address training: What kind of knowledge will the ascending CEO or interim leader need? Was there sufficient knowledge transfer prior to the need for it? Appointed successors, like an understudy in a Broadway production, must be well informed and ready to hit the ground running. This preparatory training should be an ongoing process.

Some businesses may need outside help on an interim basis, and there are companies that provide interim leadership assistance.

Succession planning should not only apply to your CEO; it should also include other senior positions such as President, CFO, CTO and CMO. Passwords, systems and processes should all be documented so your business can continue operating as usual.

A sound succession plan will contemplate how you will communicate with clients, customers, vendors, employees, investors and partners. Your key audiences should not learn about the death of your CEO from the news media, so you will need a public-relations and crisis-communications strategy that outlines how to best notify all your key internal and external audiences. It is interesting to observe the upfront, open manner in which Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A) is dealing with his succession. Buffet’s approach is much more well received than the way former U. S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig announced that he would be in charge after former President Ronald Reagan was shot (especially given the fact that the transition plan in the Constitution calls for the vice president to assume the leadership role).

If your business is family-run or family-owned with one family member playing a key role such as CEO, part of the succession plan should include not only a replacement CEO, but should also ensure there is an appropriate family member designated to maintain communication between the business and the family.

Consider “key person” insurance policies that can be owned by the company. The liquidity of these policies can offer the company the breathing room to survive a crisis. Some bank loans provide for calling the loan due if a certain person passes away, and that can be strategically insured around with a key person policy.

Another key consideration: bereavement services for grieving employees. In Miami, the Children’s Bereavement Center, which provides assistance to people of all ages, offers varied support groups and other services for bereaved adults, and resources for professional organizations and businesses dealing with trauma or crises. They are available on short notice.

Although the days and weeks following a tragic loss will certainly not feel like business as usual, they should be guided by a sound succession plan to keep the company on track with as few disruptions as possible. Investing a little time now to put the necessary plans and infrastructure in place can make all the difference when the unthinkable happens.

James 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 via email at His website is

Attracting and retaining top talent: a growing obstacle for South Florida businesses

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By James S. Cassel
July 12, 2015

Cassel pictureMaintaining a strong workforce is becoming an increasingly significant barrier to growth for South Florida’s middle-market businesses. Finding, attracting, and retaining quality talent is a tricky proposition in a region with a limited labor pool and low unemployment rates.

Deloitte’s newly published “Mid-Market Perspectives: 2015 Report on America’s Economic Engine” identifies employee turnover as a major concern for middle-market companies.

Clearly, there is more value in cultivating existing talent than having a revolving door of employees. So, how can you build a strong, loyal team in South Florida?

First, have the right perspective. Do not feel overwhelmed and assume that sweeping corporate changes will be required. Often, we can achieve a great deal by making a series of small adjustments, and continuing to make other adjustments as we build on our success. Develop a practical plan and identify realistic, attainable goals and objectives.

At all times, keep a close pulse on your employees. It can be easy for business owners to get so consumed by day-to-day operations that they lose touch with their teams, a costly mistake. Are your employees engaged, motivated and happy? How can you maximize engagement? If you have good employees who are unhappy in their current positions, can you find other opportunities within the company so you can keep them around? If not, outplacement may be best for all parties.

Your compensation packages, including cash and benefits, should be competitive. While many companies in recent years have tended to avoid raises, increased competition and poaching of employees is making it critical for employers to become more generous. Competitive compensation packages can reduce your exposure to turnover too. Even Walmart is having to address the need for wage increases.

Usually, employees will reject job offers for lateral moves unless they perceive significant disparities in working conditions and compensation. Keep your eyes and ears open so you know what other businesses in your industry are doing. Websites like PayScale and Glassdoor can help you assess average compensation data about different industries and job roles.

Working conditions, benefits and flexibility also are important. While it is important to offer 401(k) programs (ideally with matching contributions), these benefits will not support retention if your employees do not use them. This is often the case with younger employees who opt not to contribute to their 401(k) plans (although they should). Ensure that your employees are educated on the importance of contributing, no matter how entry-level their salaries.

It also helps if your office has a “cool factor.” Every generation of employees has different needs and wants. Trendy-looking, modern offices in desirable neighborhoods and touches such as free gourmet coffee and snacks in break rooms appeal to millennials and Gen X-ers.

When recruiting and hiring, conduct as much due diligence as possible. Personality tests can help, as well as meticulously following up with references. Your current employees can be great resources for recruiting. Leverage them when appropriate, as they probably know your company better than outsiders and would be more engaged to stay at companies where they are surrounded by colleagues they helped recruit.

Routine evaluations can also boost employee loyalty and performance. Embrace the opportunity to let your team members know how they are performing, praise their strengths and achievements, and provide guidance on how to reach their career objectives. At the same time, use the opportunity to solicit their thoughts and feedback, take good notes, and follow through on their comments.

Encourage employees to interact in structured social environments, such as barbeques, movie nights or whatever tickles their fancy. While many companies have stopped providing annual company picnics, it may be time to resurrect them. The more your employees enjoy each other’s company, the more apt they are to work well together. Consider employee recognition initiatives too, and perhaps pair them with these social activities. Corporate community involvement projects can help increase job satisfaction and engagement. Identify organizations your employees would be most inclined to support.

Career development is critical. Employees who feel challenged and believe they are learning are more likely to stick around. A current issue with the millennial generation, for example, is that most recent college grads will have four or five jobs in their first decade of employment. Bearing that in mind, many companies are offering less training and investing fewer resources to advance employees out of fear of wasting time and money. This can be a mistake: Bored employees are more likely to begin looking elsewhere for stimulation.

Attracting and retaining quality employees is no easy task. By taking the right steps to build a strong team, you can gain a competitive edge and position your business for maximum growth and success.

Middle-market businesses should help growth industries

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By James S. Cassel
June 14, 2015

Cassel pictureWhile the technology and healthcare/biotech industries in South Florida continue to gain strength and momentum, the region’s middle-market businesses are not properly positioning themselves to serve these industries and benefit from their growth.

There can be significant revenue opportunities for those that make the financial and other commitments necessary to position themselves to fulfill the needs of these growth businesses for highly qualified suppliers, subcontractors, and service providers. Too often, these growth businesses feel a need to look beyond South Florida for support because they do not believe their needs can be handled locally — a void that must be addressed. Right or wrong, this is the perception in the marketplace.

Based on our experience advising middle-market businesses seeking growth opportunities, the following is practical guidance for businesses that cater or want to begin catering to these growth industries:

Create a business-development strategy. Identify the key businesses you want to serve and pinpoint the ones you are best-suited to begin serving in the near or long term. Develop a plan for getting in front of these businesses to assess their needs and offer your services.

Identify the areas of your business, including products or services that you provide, which you may need to trim or expand in order to serve growth industries. Some of this may require partnering with or outsourcing work to other companies, locally, or in other parts of the United States, or internationally.

Consider investing in your team by providing educational or training opportunities and/or by adding head count. Hiring the best talent can be an expensive commitment, especially for business owners who are not sure if they will ultimately have enough business to support the additional head count. Thus, it may be wise to consider hiring temporary personnel or independent contractors who can eventually become permanent team members after you have gotten to know them and confirmed that they are a good fit, and when you are sure you have enough business to justify their compensation.

Consider acquiring or merging with competitors in the market. This is a great way to acquire quality talent. It is not uncommon in some industries, such as technology, for companies needing talent to buy younger, smaller companies to gain a competitive advantage.

Evaluate your client roster and eliminate the bottom 10 percent of your clients that may be too problematic, unprofitable or a disproportionate drain on your resources. One of the main obstacles for South Florida’s middle-market businesses is that many of them are running at or near capacity and lack the necessary talent and infrastructure to effectively handle the higher level of work required by companies in these growth industries. While parting with paying clients can often be a difficult decision, it is critical for long-term success. Part of the trouble with keeping clients that are cumbersome or not profitable is that they can drain your business in terms of time, energy and other resources. They can diminish your ability to provide quality service to other customers. Just as important, they can hurt your company’s employee morale and job satisfaction. For these reasons, bottom-tier clients might not be sustainable over the long term. Simply put, these clients are not good business and should be let go in order to make room for clients that will better support your growth.

Consider increasing your capacity by incorporating advanced solutions. Manufacturers, for example, may consider using robotics to reduce costs and increase capacity and productivity. 3D printing is another great way to increase efficiency. For example, manufacturers can use 3D printing to put together product prototypes that are quicker, less expensive, and easier to produce, and are thereby speeding up the manufacturing process and using technology to enhance their productivity and competiveness.

Develop a marketing-communications strategy. In order to hire you, companies need to know you exist and that you are able to serve them. When you have completed your business plan and implemented the necessary changes within your company to execute on those goals, you should work with experienced marketers to determine how to best position yourself to your target audiences, differentiate yourself from competitors, elevate visibility of your company among these audiences, and motivate them to want to hire you or buy your products. Your marketing strategy also should include a plan for building direct relationships with key decision-makers by attending key events, providing seminars and workshops, distributing e-newsletters, etc.

Without a doubt, South Florida’s middle market is missing opportunities to serve local companies in industries that are growing right in our own backyards. Serving these growth industries is not only important to our local middle-market businesses — it will also bring significant benefits to our local economy by creating more local jobs, financial opportunities and economic growth.

James Cassel is co-founder and chairman of Cassel Salpeter & Co., LLC. He may be reached via email at or via LinkedIn at His website is:

YOUR MONEY-Graduating Into the Family Business

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By Beth Pinsker
June 2, 2015

There is one big advantage 23-year-old Clint Morrison has found joining his family’s business fresh upon graduating from Rider University: he has a job, while most of his friends do not.

“They’re all still sort of scrambling,” Morrison says.

The Morrison family business, Benefit Design Specialists Inc, administers employee benefit plans for small businesses and is based in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Dad Tim employs not only his youngest son, Clint, but also two older sons, ages 27 and 29, as well as his own sister, a sister-in-law, a cousin and about 10 other non-related employees.

The key to a harmonious office with so many family members? “You have to find a spot for them to be productive or they won’t make it in the family business,” the patriarch says.

Here are some tips on joining the workforce – with your relatives, according to family business experts:


There is no official tally of how many “& Sons” or “& Daughters” are among the 28 million small businesses in the United States, according to the Small Business Association.

Yet one of Clint Morrison’s business professors advised him not to start in the family business. The advice: go elsewhere and garner some knowledge of the industry first. Given the state of the job market and his family’s specialty niche, Morrison decided that was not feasible.

The strategy worked well for Laura Salpeter, who got a law degree and then worked for a few years at a law firm before joining her father Scott Salpeter’s Miami-based investment banking firm, Cassel Salpeter. Also working there, after a few years of getting experience with other companies, is Philip Cassel, son of Scott Salpeter’s partner. Both offspring are now 30.

“Working with my father was something I’ve always contemplated. So I dived into the business world and found out more about what it is,” said Cassel.


Even if you spent your childhood playing in the family factory, that does not mean you are going to walk into a corner office once you get your diploma.

Robert Spielman, a partner in the tax and business services unit at Marcum LLP, advises clients that it is their job to make sure their kids are exposed to all aspects of the business, especially if they expect to hand it over to them one day.

For example, one of his clients, a fish distributor, hired several family members for its sales force. “But none learned how to manage the business, and eventually, they had financial troubles,” Spielman said.

The best way is to start at the bottom and experience all areas of the enterprise. If the family business is a trucking company, start out in maintenance, then drive for six months, go into sales and then assist in the financing side before managing the fleet and employees, Spielman says.


The family business dream – that someday, all of this will be yours – can be a great motivator, but it can also instill an unwieldy sense of entitlement.

This happened to one family business owner client of Steve Faulkner, head of private business advisory for J.P. Morgan Private Bank’s Advice Lab. The son was lording his status over his coworkers and superiors, saying “Someday, I’m going to own all of this, and fire everyone I don’t like.”

When the son’s manager finally had the courage to tattle to the boss, he fired his own son. However, two months later, when the son could not find another job, the boss asked another manager to hire him back.

“That’s a horrible succession plan,” said Faulkner.

It is better, he says, for business owners to get their relatives to work harder than they ever have to be worthy to take over the reins.

Another of Faulkner’s clients does exactly this, down to a formalized training program for the fourth generation that is now joining the business. Newcomers spend up to six years training at international subsidiaries before being brought back to headquarters for management jobs.

The process drills respect into the employees, something Laura Salpeter says she has learned on the job.

Her top advice for those joining the family business? Understand you are working for your parent, not with your parent.

Giving back to the community is smart business

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By James S. Cassel
May 17, 2015

James S. Cassel

Giving back can be great for the community and your business.

Companies and their people who support a healthy mix of charitable, community and business organizations tend to reap significant rewards. In addition to helping the community, this helps companies foster employee satisfaction, strengthen bonds with potential clients and referral sources, develop brand awareness, and position their brands in a more positive light. The relationships cultivated throughout this process also can create business and social opportunities that last a lifetime.

While many business owners recognize this potential, some struggle with implementing the right programs. They wish they had a crystal ball to know which organizations will bring the greatest personal satisfaction and business growth. Until we find that crystal ball, I can share some practical guidance I have found helpful for business owners navigating these issues.

First, identify and focus on your goals. Where do you see the future of your business and its growth? Then, determine what audiences you must reach to help you get there, and identify the community, charitable or business organizations with which these audiences are most involved.

Based on these considerations, examine your personal interests that align with these organizations. Are you more interested in organizations that mentor children or support technology growth? Focus on organizations that reach your target audiences while engaging you and your employees. This CANNOT be just for business. There must be a genuine interest in getting involved or it will not benefit anyone.

This is particularly true for board involvement. If you join a board but seem disengaged and rarely attend meetings, everyone will recognize that your heart is not in the cause. Conversely, serving actively on a board where you can roll up your sleeves, support the organization’s mission and demonstrate your skills is a powerful way to build relationships and therefore business.

Generally, organizations can be divided into three categories:

▪ Charitable organizations support philanthropic goals and social or public interests, such as the National Parkinson Foundation or World Wildlife Fund.

▪ Community organizations serve specific communities and may address specific interest or needs. Examples include United Way of Miami-Dade, Children’s Bereavement Center and Lotus House.

▪ Business organizations are nonprofit entities supporting commercial goals. They service civic needs and are a good place for networking as it plays a central role in chambers of commerce and other business organizations.

There are many ways to get involved. While writing checks is important, it is not enough for relationship-building. Depending on your company size, you may limit the involvement on company time, or you may offer your employees paid time to volunteer. You may provide a donation-matching program, schedule charitable group activities and encourage employees to find causes they’re passionate about. You can also support involvement after business hours.

The most basic involvement is attending events. This is a good way to meet new people and become more familiar with organizations and their people and confirm whether the organizations will be a good fit.

If you seek to build relationships, you should get involved with the committees or boards. Make sure you are comfortable with the organizations and their operations, and at that point, consider how you can get more involved. Again, follow your passions so it will be easier for you to stay committed long-term.

To build the right relationships, you must have a plan. Set realistic, quantifiable goals and specific steps to achieve them. For example: “I want to build a relationship with John Smith and Jane Doe.” So pay it forward and help them out. John is a fan of the Miami Heat, so invite him to a game. Jane wants to get more business from real-estate developers, so introduce her to some of your contacts.

When the time is right, however, you must ask for the business. Some people never get business because they don’t ask.

As the saying goes, “fish bite when they’re hungry,” so it’s important to keep your bait in the water. Stay top of mind with people after you have met them, such as a company newsletter or an occasional email to touch base, so that they will think of you when a business opportunity arises. Don’t make the mistake of meeting people and never following up.

Without a doubt, you can actively give back and support worthy causes while growing your business. The key is to develop a plan that will best support your goals and objectives in terms of personal satisfaction and business growth.

James Cassel is co-founder and chairman of Cassel Salpeter & Co., an investment-banking firm with headquarters in Miami that works with middle-market companies.

Florida Banks Cash In on New Tide of Miami Money

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By Jackie Stewart
May 15, 2015

Miami is making a comeback, and Florida’s banks are angling for a piece of the action.

South Florida’s economy is diversifying beyond tourism, industry experts said. A flood of foreign investors and nondepository financial firms, like hedge and private-equity funds, have moved to the area, opening up opportunities for local banks.

“Miami is booming,” said Carl Fornaris, co-chair of the financial regulatory and compliance practice at Greenberg Traurig. “We’re becoming a true global city and global financial market. It all has a trickle-down effect into the depository institutions.”

Tourism remains an important part of the economy, but other industries are starting to take root, industry experts said.

“South Florida is a very healthy market right now,” said Daniel Sheehan, chairman of Professional Bank in Coral Gables, Fla. “The economy is getting more diverse … and the job prospects for young people are improving.”

South Florida is now the home of nearly 40 private-equity firms, a 9% increase from a year earlier and up 37% from 2010, based on a report from the investment banking firm Cassel Salpeter.

A number of factors are luring investment firms. Florida has no personal income tax, distinguishing it from states such as New York, Illinois and Connecticut. Recent changes to the federal tax code, such as limiting the amount of state and local taxes that high net worth individuals can itemize on their federal returns, have also made Florida a more attractive option, said Bowman Brown, who chairs the financial services practice group at Shutts & Bowen.

“There are powerful tax reasons for hedge, private-equity and venture capital funds to move to Miami,” Brown said. “Florida is clearly a business-friendly tax jurisdiction and will remain a low-tax jurisdiction.”

Foreign investment continues to give the area a lift, said Thomas Rudkin, a principal in investment banking at FIG Partners. He said that investors from Latin America are interested in South Florida because of its proximity to their home countries and sizable populations of immigrants from Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina.

For instance, the Venezuelan Benacerraf Group announced in May that it would buy Espirito Santo Bank, a unit of the now-defunct Portuguese bank Banco Espirito Santo.

“There’s a lot of foreign money coming in,” said Rudkin, who was an adviser to Espirito Santo during its sale. “They consider an investment in the U.S. to be solid.”

South Florida also has good infrastructure, including the closest U.S. seaport to the Panama Canal. Miami also has a renewed focus on cultural activities, including a new arts district that is rapidly expanding, industry experts said.

And if all of that was not enough to attract investment, the “weather is great, too,” Fornaris said.

“Clearly, it has become more diverse in the last five years,” Brown said. “The real estate development business has been a powerful engine in South Florida. The business of culture has really taken off, and the airport and seaport are major East Coast world-class operations.”

Banks can benefit from these developments, industry experts said. The area is enjoying a boom in property development. Banks can provide mortgages to people looking to buy homes and commercial loans to developers and businesses that support the construction industry.

Banks could also have an opportunity to work with the nondepository institutions that are relocating to the area, along with their employees, Fornaris said. Such firms, in addition to foreign investors, need a place to park their deposits. They may need other services, such as wealth management or private banking, though they are more likely to turn to bigger financial institutions for those products and services.

Community banks, nonetheless, are looking for ways to capitalize on the area’s transformation.

The $241 million-asset Professional Bank recently raised $15 million in a private offering to “take advantage of opportunities” in the area that could include acquisitions or hiring talent, Sheehan said.

“Business school graduates are considering Miami as an institutional market, not just New York, Boston, D.C., Los Angeles or Chicago anymore,” Sheehan said. The overall trends that are helping South Florida “are not going away anytime soon. There’s an awful lot of capital flowing in from other parts of the country.”

Still, banks must be aware that risks abound in South Florida.

Real estate development has “always been up and down” across the state, said Fernando Margarit, a partner at Hunton & Williams. South Florida is likely to go through another down cycle, but industry experts are hopeful that developers and lenders learned from the financial crisis. Current growth also seems more measured compared with past booms.

South Florida is “already highly competitive,” and banks are generally at a disadvantage because of the tough regulatory environment, Margarit said. As a result, potential customers could turn to nonbanks for capital and other services.

Regardless, Margarit said the area’s transformation should be viewed as a positive one for local banks. “As Miami becomes more sophisticated, it is like a snowball effect,” he said.

“All of this is leading to more people with money coming down and all of that helps the banks,” Margarit added. “There are a lot of synergies that will help the city and the banking industry.”

Private equity deals poised for takeoff in Florida

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By Margie Manning
April 1, 2015

A private equity company that recently relocated to Tampa is among a growing number of investment firms making their home in the Sunshine State.

Florida is the headquarters for 37 private equity firms, up from 27 firms in 2010, according to research by Cassel Salpeter & Co., a Miami-based investment banking company. Three firms set up shop in the state during 2014 – Supply Chain Equity Partners in Tampa, Brinkmere Capital Partners in Jacksonville and Innovative Capital Partners in Naples, a spokesman for Cassel Salpeter said.

The expanded presence of private equity investors in the state is a positive sign, because funders often prefer to be close to the companies in which they invest. That could mean more Florida businesses will be in line for capital and expertise they need to add jobs and grow, and that Florida firms sold to private equity investors likely will remain in the state.

There were 162 private equity deals in Florida in 2014, down 2.3 percent from the 166 deals in 2013, but a drop of a couple of deals does not make a huge difference, said Jim Cassel, co-founder. He’s more focused on a three-year trend that shows private equity deal flow remains strong. He expects that trend to continue, as Florida’s relatively young companies mature.

“There’s been a sea change among private businesses. Years ago, people used to sell businesses in their 50s and then retire,” Cassel said. “Now owners are holding them longer. Ten years from now, I think the number of private equity deals will be up by 25 percent, because those business owners who are 58 now will be 68 then and ready to retire.”

Casselsalpeter Deal Report Winter 2015 by JoLynn Brown




Levon Resources Ltd. Announces Definitive Agreement to Acquire SciVac Ltd.

From: Marketwire – Canada

Mar-20-2015 8:30 AM

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA–(Marketwired – March 20, 2015) –
Levon Resources Ltd. (“Levon”) (TSX:LVN)(OTCQX:LVNVF)
(BERLIN:LO9)(FRANKFURT:LO9) and SciVac Ltd. (“SciVac”)
announced today that they have entered into an arrangement
agreement pursuant to which Levon will acquire 100% of the issued
and outstanding ordinary shares of SciVac by way of a court-approved
plan of arrangement (the “Arrangement”).

“I am excited to announce this transaction with SciVac, as I believe
it will generate tremendous value for Levon shareholders,” stated Ron
Tremblay, President and Chief Executive Officer of Levon. “In a difficult
market for resource issuers, we have chosen to preserve capital while
seeking to identify alternatives to create shareholder value. The
acquisition of SciVac gives Levon ownership of Sci-B-Vac(TM), a
commercial stage, potentially best in class hepatitis B vaccine which
could address a significant market opportunity. Levon shareholders will
also maintain an interest in Levon’s existing business and assets by
receiving shares of a newly formed company which will hold Levon’s
existing resource assets.”

Pursuant to the Arrangement, Levon shareholders will receive one new
common share of Levon (each a “New Levon Share”) and 0.5 of a
commonshare (each, a “Spinco Share”) of 1027949 BC Ltd., a newly
formedexploration company (“Spinco”) in exchange for each common
share of Levon (each a “Levon Share”) held by them. Upon closing
of the Arrangement, Levon shareholders will hold 100% of the
issued and understanding Spinco Shares and 31.6% of the issued and
outstanding New Levon Shares, with the former holders of SciVac
Shares holding the remaining 68.4% of the issued and outstanding
New Levon Shares.

In addition to acquiring all of the issued and outstanding shares
of SciVac, Levon will retain CAD $27 million in cash. All other
assets and liabilities of Levon will be transferred to or will be
assumed by Spinco. At the closing of the Arrangement, Levon expects
that in addition to holding all of Levon’s mineral properties,
including Levon’s flagship Cordero Project, SpinCo will have
approximately $20.1M in working capital, including approximately
$3M in cash, a $1.1M convertible debenture as well as 35,178,572
shares of Pershing Gold Corporation with current estimated value
of $16M. SpinCo will also hold a $2M Mexican value added tax
receivable that Levon expects will be recovered. The total of 22.1M
represents approximately 48% of Levon’s working capital as at
December 31, 2014.

“SciVac is pleased to announce this transaction with Levon in furtherance
of our goal of expanding market opportunities for SciVac products in
development, including Sci-B-Vac, our third-generation hepatitis B
vaccine,” said Dr. Curtis Lockshin, Chief Executive Officer for SciVac.
“Sci-B-Vac has already been approved in several countries, including
Israel, where it has been provided to hundreds of thousands of newborn
children. We intend to pursue marketing approvals for Sci-B-Vac in the
United States and other territories worldwide, initially focused on
at-risk populations such as End-Stage Renal Disease and HIV patients.
In addition, we believe the transaction will permit SciVac to cultivate
a pipeline of other therapeutics, utilizing novel treatment approaches
in various disease areas with unmet needs.”

SciVac is currently a privately owned company, of which approximately
45% of the shares are owned by OPKO Health, Inc. (NYSE:OPK).
OPKO’s CEO and Chairman, Dr. Phillip Frost, commented, “This
transaction with Levon presented an opportunity to unlock meaningful
value for OPKO shareholders via OPKO’s ownership interest in SciVac.
SciVac is a commercial-stage biotech leader in protein engineering whose
flagship product, Sci-B-Vac, is a superior next generation hepatitis
B vaccine. Sci-B-Vac has received approval for use in ten countries
including Israel, where it captures half the market for neonatal
hepatitis B vaccinations, and is offered to adults who do not respond
to competing hepatitis B vaccines. It appears positioned to expand
the billion dollar global hepatitis B vaccine market upon successful
completion of the FDA approval process.”

The board of directors of Levon has unanimously approved the
transaction and all directors and officers of Levon, collectively
holding approximately 10.08% of the number of Levon Shares and
76.94% of the number of options to purchase Levon Shares
(the “Levon Options”) anticipated to be entitled to vote at a special
meeting to consider the Arrangement, have agreed to vote in favour
of the Arrangement.

Arrangement Details

The Arrangement will be effected by way of a court-approved plan
of arrangement and will require the approval of at least 2/3 of the
votes cast by Levon’s shareholders and optionholders at a special
meeting expected to take place in April 2015 (the “Meeting”). The
transaction is also subject to applicable regulatory approvals,
including approval of the TSX, and the satisfaction of certain closing
conditions customary in transactions of this nature.

The Arrangement will result, through a series of transactions, in:

—  Levon shareholders receiving one New Levon Share and 0.5 of a

Share for each Levon share currently held by them;

—  holders of SciVac Shares receiving that number of New Levon

representing 68.4% of the issued and outstanding New Levon Shares in

exchange for the acquisition by Levon of all of the issued and

outstanding SciVac Shares;

—  the change of Levon’s name to “SciVac Inc.”; and

—  the change of Spinco’s name to “Levon Resources Ltd.”

Holders of outstanding Levon stock options may exercise their
options until the effective time of the Arrangement, at which time
they will be cancelled.

On completion of the Arrangement, Spinco will own and operate
the existing business of Levon and Levon will own and operate
the existing business of SciVac. Levon shareholders who receive
New Levon Shares and Spinco Shares under the Arrangement will hold
100% of the issued and outstanding Spinco Shares and 31.6% of the
issued and outstanding New Levon Shares, with the former holders
of SciVac Shares holding the remaining 68.4% of the issued and
outstanding New Levon Shares.

After taking into consideration, among other things, the terms of
the Arrangement, the unanimous recommendation of a special committee
of Levon directors established to review the Arrangement and discussions
with its legal and financial advisors, Levon’s board of directors has
unanimously concluded that the Arrangement is in the best interests of
Levon and has approved the Arrangement. Levon’s board of directors
intends to recommend in the management information circular to be mailed
in connection with the Meeting that Levon’s shareholders and optionholders
vote in favour of the Arrangement.

Subject to SciVac’s right to match, Levon’s board of directors may
terminate the arrangement agreement in favour of an unsolicited
superior proposal upon payment of a US$1 million break fee to SciVac.


Levon’s legal counsel is Stikeman Elliott LLP and Dorsey &
Whitney LLP. Cassel Salpeter & Co., LLC is Levon’s financial advisor.

About Levon Resources Ltd.

Levon is a gold and precious metals exploration Company, exploring the
company’s 100% owned flagship Cordero bulk tonnage silver, gold, zinc,
and lead project near Hidalgo Del Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico.

About SciVac Ltd.

SciVac Ltd., headquartered in Rehovot Israel, is in the business of
developing, producing and marketing biological products for human
healthcare. SciVac’s flagship product Sci-B-Vac is a recombinant 3rd
generation hepatitis B vaccine. SciVac also offers contract development
and manufacturing services to the life sciences and biotechnology


Ron Tremblay, President and Chief Executive Officer

Safe Harbour Statement – This news release contains “forward-looking
information” and “forward-looking statements” (together, the
“forward-looking statements”) within the meaning of applicable
securities laws and the United States Private Securities Litigation
Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements, include,
but are not limited to, statements regarding the completion of
the Arrangement and the various steps thereto, the mailing of
a management information circular in connection with the Meeting and
the holding of the Meeting and are made as of the date of this news
release. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on
forward-looking statements, as there can be no assurance that the
future circumstances, outcomes or results anticipated in or implied
by such forward-looking statements will occur or that plans, intentions
or expectations upon which the forward-looking statements are based
will occur. While we have based these forward-looking statements on our
expectations about future events as at the date that such statements were
prepared, the statements are not a guarantee that such future events
will occur and are subject to risks, uncertainties, assumptions
and other factors which could cause events or outcomes to differ
materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking

Neither the Toronto Stock Exchange (“TSX”) nor its Regulation Services
Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX)
accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.
The securities to be issued pursuant to the Arrangement have not been and
will not be registered under the United States Securities Act of 1933, as
amended (the “U.S. Securities Act”) or the securities laws of any state
of the United States and may not be offered or sold absent such
registration or an available exemption from such registration requirements.
The securities in the Arrangement are anticipated to be offered and sold
pursuant to the exemption from registration under Section 3(a)(10) of
the U.S.Securities Act and pursuant to similar exemptions under any
applicable securities laws of any state of the United States. This press
release does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an
offer to buy any of the securities.


Levon Resources Ltd.

Investor Relations

Direct: 604-682-2991

ir@levon.comLevon Resources Ltd.Ron Tremblay

President and Chief Executive Officer


Source: Levon Resources Ltd.


Reflecting on 2014, Thoughts on 2015

“The person who says that it cannot be done should not interrupt the person who is doing it.” 

– Ancient Chinese Proverb


At Cassel Salpeter & Co., we have been getting it done for years in the most interesting of times.

Reflecting on 2014, Thoughts for 2015

As 2015 begins, it is important to reflect on the past year, evaluate our performance, and take the necessary steps to ensure that we are best prepared for things to come.

The good news: Things are looking bright on a national level. Despite a volatile stock market and challenging international situations in 2014, we are excited that 2014 helped to position us for a strong 2015. Today, the market is creating opportunities to sell your company or raise capital.

Moreover, in our backyard, Florida continues to gain increasing importance as a hub for investment, deal activity, technology and general business growth. There are many opportunities to take advantage of this resurgent climate and position your business for continued growth.


Cassel Salpeter & Co. Celebrates
Another Strong Year


For the team at Cassel Salpeter & Co., 2014 was another strong year. Thanks to our valued clients, partners and other friends for continuing to make possible our continued growth and success.


Some highlights included:

  • Successfully handled more than 50 assignments in a broad range of industries, including healthcare, financial services, business services, retail, technology, and industrial. Our team worked on behalf of family businesses, financial sponsors, public companies, boards of directors and special committees.
  • Published the Florida PE Deal Report: View of Florida, a semi-annual report recapping PE deal flow in Florida. Click here to view.
  • James Cassel continued to share his subject-matter expertise as a middle-market columnist for The Miami Herald.  He also was featured in a spectrum of local and national media, including: Bloomberg, American Banker, The Deal; Mergers & Acquisitions Magazine, Daily Business Review, and Florida Trend.
Changes in 2015 to Watch That May 
Impact Your Business

There is a high likelihood that changes in 2015 in interest rates, unemployment rates, demand curves, and the prices of oil, real estate, and health care will affect your business in one way or another.

No matter what vertical your business operates in, 2015 presents a strong market for sellers with more buyers than sellers in the market as well as attractive financing options available for buyers. However, it’s important for middle-market business owners to keep a close pulse on these key changes in order to protect their best interest and ensure their businesses are in the strongest position in 2015. As always, it’s important to consult trusted professionals with subject-matter expertise who can help develop the right strategic plans to overcome the obstacles and seize the opportunities.


Click here to read James Cassel’s article about this topic, which was published on January 19, 2015, in The Miami Herald.

Contact Cassel Salpeter & Co. Today

At Cassel Salpeter & Co., we are excited about the growing demand for our guidance from middle-market and emerging growth companies in the U.S. and worldwide related to mergers and acquisitions, capital raising, fairness & solvency, valuations, restructurings, and general advisory services.

Please feel free to contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.
About Cassel Salpeter & Co.   


Cassel Salpeter & Co. is an independent investment banking firm that provides advice to middle market and emerging growth companies in the U.S. and worldwide. Together, its professionals have more than 50 years of experience providing private and public companies with a broad spectrum of investment banking and financial advisory services, including: mergers and acquisitions; equity and debt capital raises; fairness and solvency opinions; valuations; and restructurings, such as 363 sales and plans of reorganization.

Co-founded by James Cassel and Scott Salpeter, the firm provides objective, unbiased, results-focused services that clients need to achieve their goals. Personally involved at every stage of all engagements, its senior partners have forged relationships and completed hundreds of transactions and assignments nationwide. The firm’s headquarters are in Miami. Member FINRA and SIPC. More information is available at  
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