in a large number of transactions
across a wide spectrum of industries
Steven Zuckerman launched a new career in investment banking this fall thanks to a five-year stint as a bankruptcy lawyer that turned him on to the world of corporate restructuring.
In October, Zuckerman, 33, joined the investment-banking firm of Farlie Turner & Co. as the head of the firm’s special situations group. The firm, which is based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., put the team together to advise middle-market companies in financial distress, an attempt to capitalize on a worldwide credit crunch that shows no sign of relenting.
“We think we timed the launch of this group pretty good,” he said. “I think the writing has been on the wall for some time now that there’s going to be an increase in underperforming and distressed companies.”
Zuckerman stumbled on to his career in financial-turnaround work. After earning his law degree from the University of Miami, he set his sights on being an entrepreneur, joining the management team of an Internet start-up that helped small businesses set up e-commerce sites. But when the dot-com bubble burst, Zuckerman suddenly found himself working with restructuring lawyers, he said, and was intrigued by their role advising businesses.
Through a friend, he was introduced to a shareholder at the Florida law firm of Berger Singerman and joined the firm as a bankruptcy lawyer in 2001, working on reorganizations of middle-market companies with between $50 million and $1 billion in revenues. Zuckerman found a job that was more business orientated than he first thought, trying to find solutions to solve companies’ problems.
“It was a great education in learning how to one, on the financial side, restructure a company’s balance sheet, and on the strategic side, understanding where companies have gone wrong,” he said.
While at Berger Singerman, Zuckerman started Leaders of Tomorrow to help young professionals in South Florida learn from leading business executives. Zuckerman spent months putting together a group of standouts from companies, government agencies and charitable organization. It took off when Wayne Huizenga, the billionaire entrepreneur who started Waste Management Inc. and built Blockbuster into a national video-rental store, agreed to speak to the group.
After meeting with Craig Farlie and Michael Turner, Zuckerman saw the position at the investment bank as a chance to build a practice focused on advising distressed companies. The special situations group will help underperforming and distressed companies raise financing through debt or equity and advise them on selling assets or their entire business.
The group was recently hired to advise the largest franchisee of TGI Friday’s restaurants in Florida, which is in bankruptcy.
“I thought that there was a really strong opportunity in the distressed base because there’s not in my view any investment banking firm that controls middle-market deals in the Southeast, especially in Florida,” he said.
Steven B. Zuckerman can be reached at email@example.com