University of Southern California

ACG Cup Winners
Marshall MBAs Prevail in M&A Competition
March 31, 2014 • by News at Marshall

Demonstrating their proficiency in mergers and acquisitions, USC Marshall School of Business MBAs earned the ACG Cup in a regional competition held Feb. 24 at the University of Southern California. USC Marshall prevailed over 10 MBA programs, including UCLA Anderson, Pepperdine, Claremont Graduate, LMU, UCI and UCSD, in the Southern California ACG Cup, sponsored by the Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego chapters of the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG).

The M&A case competition allows students to apply their studies to a real-world case challenging their knowledge of mergers and acquisitions, investment banking, financial advising and private equity. Each team presents valuation, capital markets and M&A strategic advice to a panel of professionals. The competition is carried out through a series of intra-school and regional competitions, with regional winners awarded the ACG Cup title and cash awards.

Stephen Opper ’09, MBA/JD ’14, Ben Gilreath MBA ’14 and Christian Clayton MBA ’14 led Marshall to victory in a case that tasked them with evaluating strategic financial alternatives for a middle-market retail business.

“For the first round, we developed a proposal that accomplished the goals of the company while allowing the board to fulfill its fiduciary duty,” Opper explained. “The second round built upon the first by adding an additional set of facts. We explored and evaluated opportunities ranging from the status quo to an acquisition or leveraged buyout.”

All of the team members have investment banking experience and work together as officers of the American Finance Association (AFA) on campus. Each also brought unique strengths: Opper, also a USC Gould School of Law student, has experience working on debt transactions; Gilreath’s work in mergers and acquisitions last summer helped him analyze a potential acquisition opportunity; and Clayton’s work as an investment banking analyst made him particularly adept with the financial analytics.

During the feedback session, the judges—professionals from L.A. and Orange County-based private equity firms, investment banks and debt providers—commented that not only were the team’s financial analytics on point, but also that they presented the data clearly and concisely.

“Stephen, Christian and Ben quickly showed that they were a strong contender to win the Southern California regional competition,” said lead judge Paul Hayama, Marshall alumnus and principal of Avante Mezzanine Partners and ACG school liaison, “by demonstrating their clear understanding of M&A strategy, executing a polished presentation and using strong technical and analytical skills. They worked extremely well as a team, and also impressively conveyed their individual insights when questioned by the experienced judging panel.”

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.