Consumer-focused Financo hires David Solomon, former Lazard Middle Market CEO

David Solomon has joined the ranks at consumer-focused Financo, bringing 29 years of M&A experience including more than a decade leading Lazard Middle Market.

Solomon joined the boutique investment bank as both a managing director and member of senior management. Solomon will advise companies broadly across the consumer industry, including in the e-commerce and direct marketing, outdoor and recreational, health and wellness and auto and retail categories.

Solomon joins Financo from Lazard Middle Market, where he spent 11 of the last 12 years as CEO, working out of the advisory firm’s Chicago office.

Solomon previously joined Lazard predecessor Goldsmith Agio Helms as a banker in 1991. Solomon helped build the firm to 130 professionals by the time he was named co-CEO in January 2007, ultimately helping construct Goldsmith’s sale to Lazard later that year.

Solomon is largely known for building Lazard’s e-commerce and direct marketing practice, in addition to introducing the firm’s middle-market practice to Europe. Under Solomon’s lead, the firm from 2007 to 2018 tripled in revenues while he established full teams in London, Paris, Milan and Frankfurt.

Solomon during his M&A career advised on numerous transactions across a range of consumer sectors and distribution channels.

Notable mandates include advising on the sale of Lincolnshire Management’s Holley Performance Products to Sentinel Capital Partners; the sale of Thorntons convenience store chain to a joint venture between ArcLight Capital Partners and BP plc; the sale of Hudson Jeans to Joes Jeans; and Golf Smith International on its sale to Golftown.

Solomon told Buyouts he explored taking various roles within both larger and smaller investment banks and private equity firms after implementing his succession plan out of Lazard in 2018.

The idea of joining Financo was raised late last year at the closing dinner of SunDance’s sale to Webster Equity, Solomon said. Solomon and Financo Managing Director Lee Hellman had co-advised the women’s apparel e-commerce retailer on the transaction, and months later, those talks evolved, he said.

Joining a boutique firm presented opportunity to work closely with more entrepreneurial clients, Solomon said: “Consumer is a great place to be right now because there’s so much change in disruption. … I like the idea of being on a platform that is specializing in consumer and has so many domain experts approaching [the sector] in a very considered way.”

Solomon will report to Financo CEO John Berg, who bought control of the firm in 2012 from its original founder. Berg, prior to joining Financo, built and ran the retail and consumer products group at Montgomery Securities through its sale to Bank of America. He subsequently led the retail and consumer group at BofA. Under Berg’s lead, Financo has grown and shifted its focus dramatically.

Since 2012, Financo’s revenue quadrupled, its employee base doubled and its global coverage expanded with the opening of its London office, Berg told Buyouts. The addition of Solomon follows three new hires in the principal position over the last year, he said.

Solomon joins managing directors including Ash Burman, who heads the London office, Tim Dahms, Joshua Goldberg, Karen Goodman, Lee Helman and Vennette Ho.

When he purchased the firm, Berg said approximately 80 percent of the practice was focused in apparel and footwear. Today apparel and footwear account for less than 20 percent of the practice, with beauty and personal care representing Financo’s largest piece of business, alongside sectors including healthy living and enthusiast brands, multi-channel retail and restaurants and e-commerce and direct-to-consumer.

With an average deal size of about $250 million in enterprise value, the boutique firm has advised on deals ranging from $50 million to $2 billion in size.

Solomon, who views M&A as a craft, said he is continually developing process advancements and using game theory: “It’s in my blood,” Solomon said. “It’s really like playing chess. Every game is different.”

Solomon earned both a Bachelor of Arts and Master’s Degree from Yale University, graduating magna cum laude. He received an M.B.A. from The Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.

Prior to his career in M&A, he spent 13 years as a real estate professional.

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