A Lesson in Dealmaking

Roberto'sFor the last quarter century I’ve eaten most weeks at a nearby Italian restaurant, Roberto’s.  Locally to where I live there isn’t a huge choice anyway, but this one would still hold its own in the middle of the Metropolis, and in any case I’m kind of loyal to places (and people) that treat me well.

Now I guess this place is a bit like Trigger’s Broom.  It’s moved location, and it’s changed ownership.  But it’s still the same restaurant.

When we first started going, it was based in a magnificent old Cooperative building, with massively high ceilings and huge stained glass windows.  The owner at the time was a tall, sheepishly-stooped Italian named Giovanni.  He was wonderfully jolly, self-deprecating and a pleasure to be with, and he would act front-of-house while his partner, Joy, ran the kitchen on a very short leash.

Around the turn of the millennium he decided to retire, and sold the business to a younger Italian family-man called Mauro.  He got a price he was happy with, and was able to retire comfortably.  Mauro and Giovanni hadn’t met before the deal, but it seemed to go well, and from our, slightly concerned perspective, the transition was seamless.  In the years to come, Giovanni and Joy would often return to the restaurant to eat, and it was always a pleasure to catch up with them.  Earlier this month, Giovanni died.

My wife and I were saddened by this, but Mauro was very deeply saddened.  He describes Giovanni as “a father…absolutely”.  He has plans in train to have pictures of Giovanni on the walls of his restaurant, alongside the large black-and-white pictures of his own father.

And it occurs to me that if you sell a business, and fifteen years later the stranger that you sold it to weeps at your funeral, and is proud to view you as a father, then you have a lesson for all of us about how to conduct a perfect M&A transaction.  Amongst other things.

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