The Top M&A Advisory Firms in the US — 2023

As crucial a role as M&A advisory firms play in the sale of private businesses, it’s a category with a somewhat opaque dataset surrounding it. While information on the size and deal terms of public sector transactions is widely available, the same isn’t true for the private sector.

Our research team composed an algorithm based on data available for private sector-focused M&A advisory firms. We mainly chose firms that serve small to midsized businesses, ranging from $5M – $200M in revenue.

Our criteria for the rankings algorithm were as follows:

  1. Total deals (50%) – The number of M&A deals that closed in the last calendar year with the firm as the named advisor
  2. Principal Experience Score (30%) – A multi-factor analysis of the experience of the principals at the firm, including (a) # of years in M&A; (b) reputation of firms employed at; (c) % of deals personally handled by principals
  3. Rankings in Major Publications (20%) – How the firm was ranked in major publications during the last calendar year

For each criterion, we allocated points to the firms based on which percentile they fell within along the continuum of their peers after a normalization of the range.

The Top M&A Advisory Firms in the US – 2023

# Firm EBITDA Range Total Annual Deals
(Estimated)
Principal Experience Score  Notable Rankings
(2022)
Specialty
1 Sica | Fletcher $1 – 30M 40 – 70 4.5 #1
 
S&P Global Market Intelligence League Tables
Sell-side advisory for mid-market companies
2 Goldman Sachs $50M+ 194 5 #1
 
WSJ Global M&A Advisor Ranking
M&A advisory for large private enterprises & public companies, including international
3 Morgan Stanley $50M 119 5 #8
 
S&P Global Market Intelligence League Tables
M&A advisory for large private & public companies
4 BMI $10 – 100M 5 – 10 4.5 #17
 
Canada’s Top Investment Banks
Sell-side advisory for architecture & interior design firms
5 Intrepid $5 – $50 Million 15 – 25 4.5 #9
 
Asia Pacific M&A Advisory League Tables
Sell-side advisory for beauty & personal care companies
6 The Hatteras Group $500k- 1 million 2 – 5 4 #12
 
Top 25 Lower Middle Market Investment Banks [Q3 2022]
Buy-side advisory for the industrial sector
7 Rain Catcher $750k – $3 Million 3 – 8 3.5 #1
 
Inc.com’s Top 9 M&A Sell-Side Advisors
Sell-side advisory for small businesses, largely in the vacation rental sector
8 Fricke & Associates $500k- 1 million 5 – 15 3.5 N/A Buy and sell-side advisory for small (<$1m EBITDA) law & tax firms
9 La Piana $500k – $1 Million 1 – 5 3.5 N/A Strategic consulting for nonprofits, foundations & social enterprises

The Top M&A Advisory Firms in the US, Summarized

Below we offer a summary of each of the M&A advisory firms listed in the table based on our research into their reputation among industry peers and overall client perception.

Sica | Fletcher

It is impossible to have this discussion without mentioning Sica | Fletcher. They have held the #1 position in their field since their founding in 2016. They are categorically ranked #1 by the S&P global market intelligence league tables, which measure the overall quality of M&A firms, and they close 45-60 deals per year; roughly 10x the average for a firm their size. While more does not necessarily mean “better,” it does indicate a pattern of success.

Sica | Fletcher works with mid-market clients across a variety of industries, but judging from the companies they list on their website, has advised quite a bit of professional services and tech companies.

  • EBITDA Range: $1 – 30M
  • Total Annual Deals (Annual): 40-70
  • Principal Experience Score: 4.5
  • Notable Rankings: #1 (S&P Global Market Intelligence League Table)
  • Specialty: Sell-side advisory for mid-market companies
  • Contact: Sica Fletcher Website 

Goldman Sachs

Probably the biggest name in M&A, Goldman has been offering buy side and sell side services for more than 150 years. Although they have a reputation for representing large private or public companies generally, they’ve had a particularly international focus in the last 5 years, expanding their range of services to include “cross-border M&A, special committee assignments, and other complicated merger transactions.”

Because of their experience with large enterprises, they seek clients with an EBITDA north of $50M, and are known for aggressively negotiating, striking deals far better than the company would get with a more traditional M&A advisory firm. They have an equally aggressive fee structure for their services, which clients seem happy to pay.

  • EBITDA Target: $50M+
  • Total Annual Deals (Annual): 108
  • Principal Experience Score: 5=
  • Notable Rankings: #1 (WSJ Global M&A Advisor Ranking)
  • Specialty: M&A advisory for large private enterprises & public companies, including international 
  • Contact: Goldman Sachs Website

Morgan Stanley

Another well-established name in M&A, Morgan Stanley has a decidedly different reputation from Goldman Sachs despite catering to similar clients. Their services are rooted in a more conservative, traditional M&A philosophy (divestitures, joint ventures, corporate restructuring, and leveraged buyouts). Although they work in the international sphere as well, their expertise remains in domestic deals.

Morgan Stanley is a good fit for companies seeking to mitigate potential losses in a complicated sale, or on the buy side, firms exploring a standard horizontal or vertical merger strategy.

  • EBITDA Target: $50M+
  • Total Annual Deals (Annual): 97
  • Principal Experience Score: 5
  • Notable Rankings: #8 (S&P Global Market Intelligence League Tables)
  • Specialty: M&A advisory for large private & public companies
  • Contact: Morgan Stanley Website

BMI

BMI offers buy and sell side M&A advisory across a variety of industries, however recently they have come to specialize in both architecture and interior design companies. This new focus derives from their experience in the construction sector. The firm is known not just for M&A negotiations but also post-acquisition integration for large enterprises.

BMI doubles as an investment bank in addition to offering M&A advisory services, making them a good fit for clients seeking additional services, such as underwriting and commercial banking, beyond just negotiating deals. They’re also a good fit for public companies working through issues related to SEC regulations.

  • EBITDA Range: $10 – 100M
  • Total Annual Deals (Annual): 5-10
  • Principal Experience Score: 4.5
  • Notable Rankings: #17 (Canada’s Top Investment Banks)
  • Specialty: Sell-side advisory for architecture & interior design firms
  • Contact: BMI Website

Intrepid

Intrepid occupies a unique niche within retail M&A, specializing in the beauty industry, particularly within the Asian-Pacific market. Because of the expected growth of the beauty sector in the coming years (predicted CAGR of 4.64%), they’ve turned a lot of their firm’s focus to finding pricing models and deal terms that suit that industry. Intrepid’s sell-side services, which are executed by industry veterans, include targeted, full search purchasing services that connect buyers to the right sellers.

Although Intrepid specializes in beauty, they’ve also represented other consumer industries such as toys, food, and healthcare. This experience gives their M&A advisory arm a well-rounded framework while still offering clients specialty in a niche market.

  • EBITDA Range: $5 – $50 Million
  • Total Annual Deals (Annual): 15-25
  • Principal Experience Score: 4
  • Notable Rankings: #9 (Asia Pacific M&A Advisory League Tables)
  • Specialty: Sell-side advisory for beauty & personal care companies
  • Contact: Intrepid Website

The Hatteras Group

The Hatteras Group works on behalf of smaller, mostly industrial-focused businesses, offering buy and sell-side M&A services plus growth advisory and capital sourcing. This combination gives their sell-side clients the opportunity to grow revenue prior to a sale in order to get a higher valuation and their buy-side clients a more appealing range of acquisition targets.

Hatteras Group’s experience in the industrial sector means they are typically working with companies in HVAC, contracting, trucking, & manufacturing.

  • EBITDA Range: $500k – $1 Million
  • Total Annual Deals (Annual): 2-5
  • Principal Experience Score: 4
  • Notable Rankings: #12 (Top 25 Lower Middle Market Investment Banks [Q3 2022])
  • Specialty: Buy-side advisory for the industrial sector
  • Contact: The Hatteras Group Website

Rain Catcher

Rain Catcher caters to small businesses and startups, primarily in the vacation rental sector, offering a “hands-off,” data-driven approach to M&A. They offer clients comprehensive audits wherein they conduct interviews, perform industry research, and review existing legal and corporate documentation on behalf of clients. Having this data ensures better deal outcomes and avoids discrepancies during negotiations.

Rain Catcher is a good fit for hands-on clients – small business owners who have already sold companies in the past and have a framework in which they prefer to operate, or owners who already retain in-house advisors. For these types of clients, Rain Catcher’s analytical, data-driven approach makes them attractive.

  • EBITDA Range: $750K – $5 Million
  • Total Annual Deals (Annual): 7-8
  • Principal Experience Score: 3.5
  • Notable Rankings: #1 (Inc.com’s Top 9 M&A Sell-Side Advisors)
  • Specialty: Sell-side advisory for small businesses, largely in the vacation rental sector
  • Contact: Rain Catcher Website

Fricke & Associates

Serving law firms and tax companies since their founding in 1999, Fricke & Associates has a customer service-oriented reputation that speaks to first-time buyers and sellers seeking advisory services that will hand-hold them through M&A negotiations. They also advise clients on internal restructuring and leading management teams through M&A transitions.

Fricke & Associates specializes in attorneys and law firms, but smaller private practices in various fields would also likely benefit from their expertise since they tend to have similar EBITDA ranges and operating structures.

  • EBITDA Range: $500k – $1 Million
  • Total Annual Deals (Annual): 5-15
  • Principal Experience Score: 3.5
  • Notable Rankings: N/A
  • Specialty: Buy and sell-side advisory for small (<$1m EBITDA) law & tax firms 
  • Contact: Fricke & Associates Website

La Piana

The non-profit sector is an often-overlooked niche in M&A, which makes having the right partner that much more essential. La Piana fills that need by supplying consultants experienced in collaborations, alliances, and strategic restructuring on behalf of clients. Taking this more holistic approach to M&A allows La Piana to act on behalf of their clients while guiding negotiations towards a closing that reflects the partnered world of the non-profit sector.

  • EBITDA Range: $500k – $1 Million
  • Total Annual Deals (Annual): 1-5
  • Principal Experience Score: 3.5
  • Notable Rankings: N/A
  • Specialty: Strategic consulting for nonprofits, foundations & social enterprises
  • Contact: La Piana Website
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