University of Southern California

A Major 'Deal'
USC Marshall Places First at Duff & Phelps YOUniversity Deal Challenge
March 6, 2014 • by News at Marshall

In the boardroom of Duff & Phelps’ New York office, a team of USC Marshall School of Business undergraduates presented their solution to a highly complex case before a group of Duff & Phelps experts and nationally recognized professors. They skillfully handled an hour of grilling from the panel and prevailed over two other finalists (Wisconsin and Illinois) as the winners of the Duff & Phelps YOUniversity Deal Challenge on Feb. 27, taking home $15,000 in scholarship money.

Duff & Phelps, a global financial advisory and investment banking firm, advises clients in the areas of valuation, M&A and transactions, restructuring, alternative assets, disputes and taxation. The company’s YOUniversity Deal Challenge demands a broad range of knowledge and skills in areas such as mergers and acquisitions advisory, transaction opinions, transfer pricing, dispute consulting and valuation advisory. Working in teams of three to solve a complex transaction, students apply technical reasoning and critical thinking throughout key stages of the deal-making process, gaining a stronger perspective on how a deal comes together and the types of problems that must be overcome.

The Marshall team consisted of Dekel Sherman ’15, Carson Lam ’15 and Max Teles ’15. They were tasked with valuing a hypothetical software company facing a challenging business climate as the industry was shifting away from its traditional sources of revenue.

“We assumed the role of advisers to an investment committee of a private equity firm, analyzing the industry and company to determine the best purchase price in a turnaround plan,” Sherman said.

The team used a creative approach in analyzing the case. “We separated the buyers’ and sellers’ perspectives in the transaction, determining what valuation would be attractive to both our private equity firm and company shareholders,” Sherman explained. “We compiled a lot of research on similar transactions to make defensible assumptions in our presentation.”

Julia Plotts, assistant professor of clinical finance and business economics, coached the team, all of whom are former students of her Financial Analysis and Valuation (FBE 421) class, where they learned the theories behind financial analysis and valuation, along with the real world application of those theories. “I felt they were very thorough in their approach,” she said. “They considered the industry and company’s strategic positioning and did a great job with their valuation assumptions and justification.”

Arya Rahimian ’12, a senior associate in the Los Angeles office and part of the Valuation Advisory Services practice at Duff & Phelps, witnessed the final round of the case competition. “The USC Marshall team showcased their in-depth understanding of merger and acquisition, valuation and transfer pricing — all of which are related to the services that we provide at Duff & Phelps,” he said. “The strength of the team was in their thorough approach. They did an outstanding industry and economic analysis. They also demonstrated superior presentation skills and were very effective in defending their valuation assumptions against several tough questions from the judges.”

USC Marshall has made it to the final round of the Duff & Phelps YOUniversity Deal Challenge four out of the last five years. Four years ago, Rahimian represented USC Marshall on a team that placed third. “As a result of my participation in the case competition, Duff & Phelps extended an offer to me to work for the company,” he said.

USC has a strong relationship with Duff & Phelps, which has more than 1,000 employees in offices throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Rahimian pointed out that Mark Mondello, the global leader of the Entertainment and Media industry group and a managing director in the Los Angeles office, has been a frequent guest speaker and a lecturer for numerous finance courses at the Marshall School of Business over the past eight years. He also noted that “approximately 25 percent of the employees in our Los Angeles office are Trojans.”

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.