Bonds That Strengthen, Ties That Bind.
How Nelson Mullins Became Orlando’s Trusted M&A Counsel.
Educators, protectors and advocates. In the world of mergers and acquisitions, business owners often find themselves in need of all three. It might seem like a tall order, but the attorneys at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP excel in all these roles.
In these transactions, Managing Partner Doug Starcher explained, working closely together over the course of a couple of high-intensity months with a shared goal often means a deep and one-of-a-kind bond is developed between Nelson Mullins and business owners. The only people who seem to appreciate the trusted personal relationships more than Starcher and his team are the clients themselves.
Guiding Light and Helping Hand
For entrepreneurs, especially those who have never sold a business, having that guidance and expertise on their side is invaluable. “Corporate acquisitions are emotionally and mentally draining transactions,” Starcher said. “We seek to shoulder as much of that burden as possible by explaining what to expect, what the owner needs to focus on and what dangers we want to protect them from.”
One of those clients was ProfitSword, a local software as a service (SaaS) company that called upon Nelson Mullins to help it sell its assets, including intellectual property (IP), to a private equity firm earlier this year. “I have known Doug Starcher at Nelson Mullins for over 20 years,” said Mike Patton, one of ProfitSword’s founders and co-owners. “He crafted the words that birthed our company in 2001. He was as excited about ‘our baby’ as we were. At the very start, he negotiated for us the ownership of our IP. Being ‘new parents,’ that was a particularly stressful time, but Doug guided us through.
“And as our ProfitSword family grew, he and his team kept us healthy, reviewing all our contracts and protecting us from business risks. By 2019, Nelson Mullins backed us with a whole team of legal experts helping ProfitSword expand internationally. Finally, in 2020, Doug and his team spent long days, nights and weekends wrapping up our sale. They were the right trusted partner in growing our company.”
Merging a History and a Future
Nelson Mullins’ current standing in Florida is the result of a merger of its own — with Orlando-based Broad and Cassel LLP. That fusion has yielded advantages for the team and its clients and ultimately has resulted in Nelson Mullins becoming the 69th-largest law firm in the nation.
Beyond the firm’s size, Starcher said, the primary benefit of the merger is the availability of experienced subject matter professionals now at his disposal. The local team can call on its “A-team” experience for answers to technical questions in areas such as IP, cybersecurity, data privacy and employment benefits.
While the size and experience of the firm allow it to go toe to toe on any issue with the largest private equity law firms in the country, Southern roots allow Nelson Mullins to avoid charging New York or Chicago rates, Starcher said. “We recognize we are in the Orlando legal market, and we continue to price ourselves as such, because Orlando business owners are who we want to serve.”
But that hasn’t stopped Nelson Mullins from broadening its horizons. The team’s growing reputation and deep bench have resulted in business sellers from around the country counting on Starcher and his team. This past year, one of the largest architectural and engineering firms in Texas, PBK Architects, hired Starcher and his tax partner, Pete Schoemann, to help with its sale.
“Following the lead of Doug Starcher, the Nelson Mullins team was nothing short of amazing,” said co-CEO Chris Cunico. “The process was handled with true professional grace. They aggressively pressed key issues when warranted and strategically finessed other situations. The range of expertise across the team of attorneys provided PBK with comprehensive guidance that resulted in a tremendously successful outcome.”
PBK is one of 12 acquisitions the Orlando team has handled for buyers and sellers in Texas and Oklahoma in the past few years.
Leading the Team
Starcher stepped into the managing partner role at Nelson Mullins’ Orlando office in January 2019 and leads the firm’s Florida Corporate Practice Team. Despite the extra responsibility, he has not lost his passion for helping businesses grow and ultimately navigate an exit transaction.
As much as he likes to tout the national legal experience now at his disposal, Starcher really beams when talking about his Orlando team. “I know of no more talented corporate and partnership tax lawyer than Pete Schoemann,” Starcher said. “Pete has saved clients literally millions of dollars in taxes during the past year as a result of deal structuring recommendations.”
Starcher saves some of his most effusive praise for Matt Armstrong, a new partner with whom he has worked for more than six years. Armstrong handles as many acquisitions each year as Starcher and Schoemann.
“Matt is a remarkably detailed and talented securities lawyer who has transitioned from student to teaching me new things on each deal,” Starcher said.
Despite having a seasoned team in Orlando and more than 80 M&A lawyers firmwide, Starcher said the firm could use more corporate lawyers on its Orlando team. “We have been so overwhelmed with transactions this year, you would never know we were in a pandemic. We would welcome more help at all levels.”
When asked about Nelson Mullins’ continued success in light of recent hardships like the COVID-19 pandemic, Starcher comes back to the bonds created through years of genuinely caring about the success of his clients and the knowledge his team gained from guiding clients through hundreds of acquisitions.
“I have relied on Nelson Mullins for everyday counsel for seven and a half years now,” said Waymon Armstrong, CEO of Engineering & Computer Simulations in Orlando. “I trust Doug Starcher and his team to always provide thoughtful counsel. It’s clear that they care about me personally and about the success of my business. Doug is not only my attorney, but my friend. He is not just my and my family’s trusted agent, but our company’s.”
That trust is mutual, Starcher said. “At the end of the day, the satisfaction that comes from an appreciative client, and the friendships created, are the greatest rewards.”