Matheson Advisors’ Managing Director David S. Cohen takes a hands-on approach to his banking and advisory work with clients—and his recent experience representing Horrocks in its recent sale to Alpine Investors-backed Trilon Group is no different. Having worked in the consulting industry for more than two decades with a focus on representing architecture, engineering and environmental consulting firms, Cohen has a deep expertise in business valuations, transition programs, and mergers and acquisitions—both on the buy- and sell-sides with his clients.

This holistic advisory experience proved valuable for Horrocks, a full-service civil engineering firm that’s been an integral part of improving infrastructure for communities in the western United States since 1968, as it went through a 2023 acquisition by Trilon, a platform for infrastructure consulting businesses. Trilon’s mission is to design smarter infrastructure solutions that support stronger communities by backing top firms across the U.S. Trilon is home to more than 4,000 expert staff who work with government agencies to plan, repair and expand existing infrastructure while also developing modern solutions to age-old problems including water safety, transportation access and resilience to natural disasters.

Here, Cohen shares more about his experience working with Alpine and Trilon and explains why he feels confident for the future of Horrocks alongside Trilon’s partnership.

Alpine: Congratulations on all the impressive work that you’ve done so far across your 24 years in the industry. We’d like to ask you about your recent experience representing Horrocks. Can you tell us more about the aspects of Trilon that gave you confidence that the firm would be a strategic partner to Horrocks in the long term?

David Cohen: It was the combination of Alpine and Trilon’s people-driven investment philosophy and model—thinking longer-term and acting more as partners than just investors—that created a stronger connection for our client. The approach certainly gave us at Matheson Advisors comfort, but more importantly, it gave our client comfort with respect to who they were going to partner with and spend their future growing with.

A: What was your experience like throughout the deal process and what stood out to you compared to other processes you’ve ran?

DC: As with any acquisition or investment process, it’s a time consuming and often grueling experience to take our clients through. In all deals, the process is as fast or as slow as the process is. With that in mind, I would say that working with the Alpine and Trilon teams made it a far less painful process than usual through their collaborative approach and willingness to be problem-solvers. For this deal, it was a relatively sizable company with a significant number of employees and shareholders involved, but the process ran as quickly as we could have hoped it would have run.

That comes from skilled approaches from both sides—it was a result of the Matheson Advisors’ team being actively involved from start to finish with our client, and then the same on the other side. There was always another person that you could reach out to who was actively involved; someone that wasn’t just being brought up to speed by somebody else. We all had our sleeves rolled up, a result from both sides seeing the importance of this transaction and knowing that this extra work was paramount to getting the transaction across the finish line.

It’s enjoyable working with Tom Secker, Trilon’s SVP of Corporate Development, and Michael “Mick” Renshaw, the CEO of Trilon, as well as the rest of the Trilon team. We’ve known Mick in the industry for quite a while and there’s a level of candor and honesty that comes across as he presents. Having the chance to spend time with them from the start all the way through to the celebratory dinner in Salt Lake City after the deal closed was all very positive from my perspective.

A celebratory team dinner in Salt Lake City.

The time we worked together for this deal was a lot of work, but it was handled very professionally by Alpine and Trilon and anyone involved in the due diligence process. Whether it was who they brought to the meetings or who gave the management presentations, it was well prepared and thought out, and certainly carried weight with our client. Overall, very professional—but also very comfortable and team-oriented.

A: What unique or proactive efforts did you make as an M&A advisor to help make this process as successful as possible?

DC: Our team was incredibly hands-on. We are very specific and very particular about the clients that we take on to go through this process because, as I mentioned earlier, it is an all-consuming process. We’re all in on each engagement in terms of the time, energy and level of effort that goes into taking a company to market and bringing the transaction all the way through to a closing. We don’t just make introductions and walk away—we are there the whole way through from strategizing with our client, to building the information that’s going to be presented, to finding potential buyers. We’re participating in the Teams calls and in-person meetings. We lean in through the entire process of negotiating and structuring deals, and remain actively involved in the due diligence and documentation phase. We really help our clients get all of the requested information uploaded and every question answered.

A: The C-suite of Horrocks was connected with respective counterparts at Trilon during the deal process. Can you speak to the collaboration you saw between the two parties?

DC: The easiest example from my perspective would have been on the human resources side with Horrocks’ Chief People Officer (CPO) Natalie Bradshaw connecting with Trilon’s CPO Bob Chapman. I think that’s an example of a clear win in terms of making sure that, of 850+ employees, we’re not leaving people behind or out of the loop. We wanted to make people feel comfortable as soon as possible throughout the process. This is a people-business—so you need to respect all those who have made the company successful and create as much opportunity for them as possible.

That was just one example—but certainly, connecting the Horrocks leaders with leaders from the 10+ platform companies that Trilon has acquired was integral as well. It was incredibly beneficial for the C-suite of Horrocks to have other leaders to bounce ideas off of and to ask questions, as opposed to only talking to people working in finance and on the deal itself.

A: What has stayed true or what has challenged your perceptions about Alpine and Trilon’s PeopleFirst approach having gone through this deal?

DC: I think Alpine and Trilon does right by how it represents itself. Horrocks was the second deal that Matheson Advisors has done with the Trilon team—we first worked on a deal with Wilson Engineers that closed in early 2023, and then following the Horrocks transaction, we worked on the deal with Fuss & O’Neill that closed at the end of 2023. We look forward to continuing this relationship with Trilon and Alpine because it’s never easy building a relationship—it takes time and trust, but as a result of the commonality in our thought processes and approaches, our clients benefit in the short- and long-term. And ultimately, that is all we are trying to accomplish for our clients.

A: What excites you about the future between Horrocks and Trilon?

DC: We try to stay actively engaged with our clients even after these types of deals are finished. We look forward to continuing to hear how the family of companies at Trilon are benefiting from each other and capturing the synergistic value that comes from these siblings. Whether that’s from what Horrocks brings to the table with its technology or design expertise, or the kind of transportation and traffic planning that Alta brings, or the water and wastewater services that Wilson brings to the table—Trilon’s growing network helps partner firms have access to projects in more markets and helps engineers find life-long development paths. It’ll be great to see the Horrocks company and brand continue to get stronger and stronger, and therefore, the Trilon model getting stronger and stronger as well.

Past performance not indicative of future results. There can be no assurance that an investment in any Alpine fund will lead to positive returns. Results may vary.
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