Benchmark International is pleased to announce the successful closing of DC Capital Partners’ investment in PBK Architects, Inc., and its subsidiaries. As the 23rd largest US-based architecture firm, PBK, based in Houston, Texas, and its subsidiaries in California, Beijing, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong employ over 500 architects, engineers, and related professionals.
“We are pleased that we were able to introduce PBK’s owners to the right partner, one who not only recognized the value and potential in the business but also saw the wisdom of leaving its management, best-practices, and award-winning culture in place; our clients' three most important criterion for taking this step,” said Dara Shareef, one of Benchmark International’s two Managing Directors on the transaction.
In addition to its Top 25 status, in 2019 PBK was ranked as the “#1 Education Design Firm” by Engineering News-Record (“ENR”), widely regarded as the engineering and design industry’s premier publication. Specializing in K-12 projects and, in particular, large public high schools, PBK has long been the go-to firm for sustainable design and next-gen integrations in particular. The company also focuses on two related building types - higher education and sports facilities.
DC Capital Partners was familiar with PBK’s government focus, already having made similar investments in architecture firms, AMA and Pond & Co., both of whom work predominantly with US federal government clients. “Moving into the local government market was not a big step for DC Capital but one they appear to have not explored previously. When Benchmark International first contacted them with the opportunity, the timing was not right given their other ongoing projects at that point. Benchmark’s diligence and perseverance in circling back proved to be a key factor in achieving this successful result,” said Benchmark International Associate Jesse Crawford-Lang.
“In our industry representing government contractors is often seen as a niche specialty. Though we are sector agnostic, we end up closing deals for more government contractors each year than do most boutiques specializing in the field. A great business is a great business and PBK is a great business,” said, Clinton Johnston Benchmark International’s other Managing Director on the transaction. This transaction follows closely on the heels of 11 other Benchmark International deals closed in the AEC space in the first half of 2020.
Closing a deal in the midst of COVID, particularly one with the unique international implication present here, was not without challenges, however. The deal was agreed in principle just before lockdowns began across the country. Despite the turmoil in the markets, both sides were able to hold up their end of the originally agreed bargain though not without a bit of mutually beneficial maneuvering. PBK Founder and Executive Chairman Dan Boggio commented, “Benchmark, along with our legal team at Nelson Mullins and our accounting team at Weaver, just kept plugging away no matter what was going on outside the deal. The number of issues that needed to be addressed, negotiated, and implemented in a deal like this was apparently endless. The ways that we and DC Capital had to come together to address some unprecedented events precipitated by the pandemic and the creative solutions our team generated were absolutely amazing. My partners and I are so glad that we had the opportunity to work with this great team. I don’t know that this would have gotten done, even in regular times much less the first half of 2020, without them.”
PBK’s efforts were led internally by CO-CEO and COO Chris Cunico. He added, “We really appreciated the way Benchmark led us through this process. All the decisions were ours to make. They continuously provided the data, inputs, and experienced insights that set us up to make the best possible decisions throughout the relationship. They were patient with us when we wanted to move slowly and led the charge whenever we wanted to move ahead aggressively.”
DC Capital was assisted on the transaction by Arnold & Porter, Ernst & Young, and Aon Advisory. “When DC Capital comes to town, they bring the big guns. It was a pleasure to stand toe-to-toe as adversaries to negotiate and structure the best deal possible for both sides while never compromising on our clients’ list of non-negotiable issues. We like to test our mettle, and that’s what happened here. In the end, this is the deal we were asked to get for our clients, and we are happy to have delivered for all 16 of them,” added Benchmark International Associate Director Deidre Ryan.
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