It was a fitting venue to host our Executive leaders dinner on the topic of “Lifting the Lid on Doing Deals”. As one of Sydney’s most iconic Hotels, the Lord Nelson opened it’s doors in 1841 and the very next day Merchants started to do deals there. I was curious to see what would happen if we brought together a CEO, CFO, GC and HRD to that very same venue for a Q&A about mergers, acquisitions and integrations.

Over the years I have supported numerous firms undergoing deals or complex transactions through both coaching and helping to build their talented leadership teams to enable successful completion. I was absolutely delighted to have secured a fabulous group of leaders from different business models to candidly share their insights, learnings and undisclosed stories to a packed audience of Executives and Board members. We were pleased to host our panel of dealmakers and shapers:

Vaughan Bowen – ex Chairman of Vocus Group, founded M2 Telecommunications back in 1999, as CEO grew the business exponentially and acquired the likes of Dodo, IPrimus, Commander and Engin prior to a merger in 2016 with Vocus Communications valuing the combined business at $3billion.

Sandra Rouse – CFO of TEG Australasia’s leading ticketing, live entertainment and data analytics Company. Supporting the rapid business growth over the past 8 years, part of the buy out by Private Equity from Nine Entertainment Co in 2015 along with a string of acquisitions and integrations.

Jeremy Stevenson – General Counsel of CHAMP Private Equity, manages all the legal affairs for business and its investee companies with a focus on M&A transactions deal structuring, HR and incentive plan advice, legal risk management and governance.

Franck Appleby – People & Performance Director at Adshel an Exec with a passion for helping people and organisations develop and grow. Seeing the Vodafone and Hutchison Telecoms merger, currently on the integration Adshel into oOh! Media after a $570m deal to buy the business.

During our pre-dinner Q&A, we discovered the secrets of success of building and integrating businesses and leadership of new teams. We explored the importance of the Board’s relationships with the Executive team during these times. Each of our panel shared the “deal toolkits” they have developed over the years to help lead organisations through significant change and disruption. We discovered the importance of how to manage the interests of all stakeholders (Board, Shareholders, Employees, Customers, Suppliers and the Community). And the failure to successfully integrate cultures has clearly been shown to completely undermine a deals value. I loved Franck’s insights around the important of the characteristics of the people you want on your team – those who demonstrate Resilience, Empathy and Curiosity being key.

The audience was privileged to hear first hand the ‘wins and learns’ from our panel, including what components of a deal are typically most underrated and therefore under resourcedwhich creates a higher level of risk of success of a deal. I particularly liked hear about the “the one that got away”. I had to smile when Vaughan shared some candid comments about a deal which did not come to fruition – it reminded me of an early sales call in recruitment back in 1996 (I guess it happens to everyone!)

Key takeaways for me were:

  • Time kills deals
  • You should buy earnings and learnings
  • Think about day one post acquisition (the deal is not the end)
  • Be honest about vulnerability and uncertainty

As a smart leader once told me “If we are able to help people to be their personal best, not just through the good times but also through the tougher times we can preserve a great culture”. Hearing from both Jeremy and Sandra (Private Equity side) around the owner / management of portfolio companies and their transactions executed was fascinating.

Whether you are on the ‘buy’ or ‘sell’ side on any transaction, what is clear is the importance of genuine leadership and authentic communication. Again I find myself being fortunate to spend time interacting with quality leaders with such skills or partnering with firms to acquire their future leaders.


Gavin’s expertise and passion lie in people & business growth. After studying Engineering, then Marketing and ongoing studies with the IECL, Gavin has created an extensive network and deep relationships with Executives whom have engaged him for both Search & Selection and human capital advice across Australia since 1998.