A Sudden Prospect
Based across Canada in Calgary, London, and Toronto, and following nine years of impressive strategic and organic growth, Arcane is a digital-first marketing agency co-founded by Eric Vardon and John D’Orsay.
After investing almost, a decade into Arcane, the co-founders were expecting to spend some more years building it into an entity that would net a highly profitable sale in the future. They had completed their initial seven-year business plan with exceeding success. But the future was more of a question mark, with a third partner readying for retirement and an undefined plan for the future.
They initially enlisted Stage Left to help them determine the “lay of the land” and chart a clear path forward. When an agency in Toronto that was consolidating a portfolio of digital marketing companies approached Arcane about a potential transaction, it was determined that the company’s value had increased, and the founders agreed to move ahead.
A Firm that Knew its Value
“For us, it’s all about our people and our business. With our clients and our employees, making sure they knew they were protected was our criteria in any deal,” says Vardon.
They knew their business had value—it was unique in that it was one of the first digital-first marketing firms in Canada and one of the largest.
“Any sale wasn’t just about the dollar amount; it was about making sure that the things we held dear were taken care of.”
The founders were well aware that a more prominent M&A firm would likely hand their sale off to junior people; they wanted to jump on this new proposition and needed a strong team on their side who would move quickly. Stage Left sprung into action.
From Transaction to Final Signature
Brought on as COO in March of 2018, David Bunce was concerned about keeping a positive working relationship with the buyer, who would essentially be his new boss after the sale.
His concerns were immediately eased when he realized that Stage Left Partners ultimately had his back. “I didn’t expect them to be such advocates and willing to be the bad guys. They put a premium on their value of protecting my relationship with the buyer, especially for me as management,” Bunce says.
“That’s where they exceeded – the level of protection and willingness to have difficult conversations. They were right in the thick of it.”
Also, Bunce felt in-the-loop and involved in every step of the transaction; this high communication level from the Stage Left partners enabled him to do his job and play his part in the transaction.
It was Stage Left’s well-rounded base of skills that Vardon and D’Orsay especially noted and appreciated. Particularly having Jaret on the front lines to bat for them in negotiations and Gerry working in the background, digging into the numbers and analytics, and bringing a “level of sophistication to the financials.”
“Between the group of them, they have seen it all. The years of experience and their ability to draw on those lessons are invaluable. They each had their base and skill set. We felt like they complimented each other well enough that we had all our bases covered without overcomplicating it.”
The combined knowledge and experience necessary to negotiate each complex transaction component greatly benefited Arcane and netted them the best possible deal and outcome. The negotiations’ intricate timing was an element they felt they wouldn’t have been able to accomplish without the help of Stage Left.
“It was interesting to watch them dissect these different moving parts, and they were able to maximize the fairness and advantages to each one individually,” says Vardon.
From the first steps of analyzing potential deal-breakers and warning signs to once the deal was complete and there were now more questions than during the transaction, the Arcane team maintains that Stage Left stood by them the whole way.
“I always knew that they had our best interests at heart, one hundred percent. I knew that Gerry and Jaret were a phone call away. I continually felt involved and “in the know.” There was never a point where I didn’t feel connected.”
Stage Left took on the transaction negotiations in November 2019, and it was finalized in March 2020. Vardon and D’Orsay remain on board at Arcane as executives and minority shareholders.