Inside Thoma Bravo’s $9 Billion Mortgage Market Windfall

Upon further review, it was deemed a giant mistake.

In 2018, the Federal Reserve’s four interest rate hikes put its benchmark rate at between 2.25% and 2.5% by year-end, ending a decade of free money. The hikes eventually got painful as rising rates stalled the housing market and a mini stock market meltdown in the fall of 2018 ensued, leading to outcries from Trump. Within months the Fed backtracked. Now, the big question is whether rates will fall below 0%.

For San Francisco-based software private equity giant Thoma Bravo, the Fed’s epic interest rate boomerang is set to usher in a huge deal making coup, an about $9 billion windfall in a 16-month span on Ellie Mae, a software provider to the mortgage market. Thoma Bravo put up about $2.2 billion of equity to take Ellie Mae private in a leveraged buyout in April 2019, financing the rest of the $3.7 billion purchase price. Earlier in August, it struck a deal to sell the company to Atlanta-based Intercontinental Exchange for about $11 billion in cash and stock.

Ellie Mae is a case study in the deal-making zeitgeist. The window of opportunity for Thoma Bravo was just a few months as the Fed shifted course, and the price paid was far beyond traditional buyout valuation multiples. But stock market darlings like Ellie Mae are rarely put up for sale. Now a mixture of low rates, surging growth, and soaring multiples make these software businesses more valuable than ever.

On public markets, Ellie Mae should have been the type of company buy-and-hold investors own in perpetuity. Its Encompass software is a soup-to-nuts platform for mortgage originators, where they can manage marketing, originate and process home loans, and complete closing and funding documents. It’s in a poll position to do away with the paper mortgage once-and-for-all.

Its Ellie Mae Network also connects lenders and investors with originators sourcing loans, acting as a digital network for mortgage loans. With a base of stable subscription fees and those tied to loan processing volumes, Ellie Mae attracted the savviest small and mid-cap mutual funds like Brown Capital, Kayne Anderson Rudnick, and Primecap. From its April 2011 IPO through mid-2018, Ellie Mae shares rose twenty-fold as annual revenues grew from $50 million to over $500 million. 

When mortgage rates started to rise due to the Fed in 2018, Ellie Mae’s processing revenues dried up and public investors mistakenly abandoned the company’s stock. Over a span of three months between August and November, Ellie Mae’s stock plunged about 50%, culminating in late October when the company revealed a growth slowdown.

“Rising rates, low housing inventory, and overall home affordability are serving as significant headwinds to the overall mortgage market… they are prompting us to reset our assumptions for the year,” admitted CEO Jonathan Corr on an Oct 28 earnings release. Soon investors were valuing Ellie Mae as a declining business with uncertain prospects, instead of the blue chip growth multiple it had one commanded.

Buyout funds saw an obvious mistake. Within days, three firms including Thoma Bravo were knocking on Ellie Mae’s door, inquiring about taking the company private.

An unnamed buyer set the stakes for Ellie Mae at $100 a share, or $3.7 billion. Ultimately, after about three months, about eight interested parties kicked the tires on buying Ellie Mae. The sale process leaked, causing the original high bidder for Ellie Mae to back out of its original offer, opening a window for Thoma Bravo. In mid-February, Ellie Mae’s board decided to sell to the new highest bidder, Thoma Bravo, at $99 a share, or about 40% more than its October lows. But a coup was in the offing. The purchase price was nearly 20% below Ellie’s midyear high.

Two decades ago, Orlando Bravo, the billionaire co-founder of Thoma Bravo focused the firm on software, building specialized teams of investors targeting companies in digital applications, web infrastructure and cyber security. Its playbook is to refocus struggling tech businesses on their strengths, and acquire competitors or new technologies to bolster growth. The Ellie Mae LBO was a mixture of its typical moves.

Led by Thoma Bravo managing partner Holden Spaht, it first laid off about 10% of Ellie’s workforce and cut costs, and further boosted the bottom line by outsourcing some of its workforce from the expensive Bay Area. Thoma Bravo shuttered some stagnating investment initiatives. With customers, it increased pricing, removing discounts given to some older clients even as the product improved. With increased profitability, Ellie Mae and Spaht also searched for acquisitions to improve its overall software bundle.  

In October 2019, Ellie Mae paid about $350 million to buy Capsilon, a natural language processing and machine learning startup that could help customers more accurately pull data from voluminous mortgage applications, lowering errors and exceptions. The business filled out an area where Ellie Mae had invested heavily, but not seen great results.

By 2020, the Federal Reserve was back at zero interest rates and telling the bond market to expect no changes for the foreseeable future. Mortgage rates were touching new record lows and the housing market was on fire. Ellie Mae’s business was surging. Its networked business, connecting all parts of the mortgage market on one platform, had picked up market share. Forecast revenues of about $900 million were almost double the trailing revenues at the time of Thoma Bravo’s buyout, and operating cash flow more than tripled.

The Coronavirus pandemic came early in 2020 and rates only fell further. After a brief slowdown, the housing market took off with record increases in new and pending transaction activity. Valuations for software companies also began to soar as the pandemic revealed the financial potency of companies digitizing entire industries. Thoma Bravo considered an initial public offering of Ellie Mae, but found a ready buyer in Intercontinental Exchange, the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange.

Already a giant cog in the trading of stocks, bonds and derivatives globally, mortgages had long been an area of investment for ICE but where success was still halting. In one fell swoop, it could finance a deal for Thoma Bravo’s portfolio company at record low rates and catapult ICE into an industry lead. While the bet is no sure thing, low mortgage rates and geographic shifts created by the pandemic may give the housing market years of pent up activity for Ellie to service. And thanks to the Fed, ICE has already raised $6.5 billion in financing at rates of between 0.7% and 3% for debt maturing between 2023 and 2060.

For Thoma Bravo, the $11 billion deal will yield over $9 billion for its limited partners, over $7 billion above its cost. So far, it’s the signature deal of Thoma Bravo’s $12.6 billion flagship Fund 13, and all but certain to make it an early standout among a recent crop of record-size buyout funds. As it sells down shares in cloud software provider Dynatrace, another giant coup housed mostly in a prior fund, Thoma Bravo is poised to return well over $10 billion to its limited partners in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The firm isn’t alone in seeing massive gains from investments where quick action and conviction were paramount, even at once-unthinkable valuations.

BC Partners bought nascent online pet retailer Chewy for $3 billion a few years ago,  then merged and split it from brick and mortar retailer PetSmart. Now Chewy’s worth $24 billion. Large buyout funds like Blackstone that have tilted their portfolios towards growth bets are sitting on potentially the biggest windfalls in their history, like warehouse space operator GLP and trading platform Tradeweb, a spun off piece of its $17 billion Thomson Reuters financial data deal.

Vista Equity Partners is beginning to take a portfolio teeming with valuable software companies like Ping Identity and Jamf public. The idea that buyout firms must act decisively in order to put money to work in this market was on display when Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries raised about $10 billion from a “who’s who” of PE firms at the depths of the pandemic by selling a small piece his Jio mobile business. 

In public markets, investors targeting expensive, but fast growing enterprise software and internet companies such as Whale Rock, Abdiel, Light Street, ARK Investments, Tiger Global, Zevenbergen and Baillie Gifford are having some of their best years ever as the pandemic accelerates digital change. The conviction has even extended to those traditionally dubbed value investors. 

A few years ago, Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger lamented missing out on tech giants like Amazon, Google and Facebook. Then they invested $35 billion into Apple over the span of about a year, a massive sum even at Berkshire. Now their shares are worth $90 billion. Without the courage to invest in Apple at valuation nearing $1 trillion, Berkshire easily could have “missed” what stands to be among its best-ever investments alongside Geico.

Antoine Gara

By: Antoine Gara

I’m a staff writer and associate editor at Forbes, where I cover finance and investing. My beat includes hedge funds, private equity, fintech, mutual funds, mergers, and banks. I’m a graduate of Middlebury College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and I’ve worked at TheStreet and Businessweek. Before becoming a financial scribe, I was a member of the fateful 2008 analyst class at Lehman Brothers. Email thoughts and tips to agara@forbes.com. Follow me on Twitter at @antoinegara

A Real Estate Investor Who Retires At Age of 37 Breaks Down How He Makes $15,000 a Month

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On a recent episode of the podcast “The Side Hustle Show,” hosted by Nick Loper, real estate investor Dustin Heiner explained how he was able to retire at the age of 37 by investing in rental properties.

Heiner breaks down the steps investors should take before buying a new property, and how those rental properties can make them money. He stressed picking the right city and state, assembling the right team, and the importance of the $250 monthly passive income benchmark.

Related: How to start a real estate business by investing of only 500$

Dustin Heiner is a seasoned real estate investor who retired at the age of 37 and makes roughly $15,ooo a month in passive income from his rental properties.

On a recent episode of the podcast “The Side Hustle Show,” hosted by Nick Loper, Heiner revealed how he went from working in a local government office to working for himself, and laid out the steps investors should take before deciding where to buy property.

Back in 2006, Heiner bought his first rental property in Ohio for $17,000 in cash. He explained on the podcast that in his first month of renting out a home, he made around $350 after expenses. That number would prove significant as Heiner began investing more and more.

In order to turn the side hustle into a full-time gig, he explained, he had to invest in more properties that gave him the same type of monthly cash flow.

“If I were to multiply that out, one property is $300, 10 properties, oh my goodness, that’s $3,000 a month. That is $36,000 a year.”

In 2016, he had around 26 properties, so he quit his day job and focused full-time on rental property investments. He said that today, he owns over 30 properties.

Heiner admitted he was lucky with that first deal he found in Ohio. “I did everything wrong,” he explained. However, over 10 years and many properties later, he said he had developed a system of steps he suggests everyone takes before making a new purchase.

First, pick the state you want to invest in

Once the state is decided, Heiner uses Zillow to do research on the cities within that state. He looks at highly populated cities with a lot of available properties, he explained. Then, once the city is narrowed down, he looks at all the properties within that city to see if they meet his criteria. This means looking for a property that matches up with the amount of money set aside for the investment and high rental income rates.

“Here’s a principle for everybody listening, you want to buy for $250 or more in passive income [a month] after every single expense,” he said on the podcast……

Read more:Business Insider

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Deciding To Downsize

Deciding To Downsize

After the kids have grown up and moved out, many Americans are weighing whether to “age in place” or downsize to a smaller home as they head into the next chapter of their lives. In fact, a 2018 study for Fannie Mae predicts a 42% increase in the number of older Americans exiting homeownership between 2020 and 2036, compared with the decade ending in 2018.

To help navigate the decision, here are the most important considerations.

Baby Boomers (Americans born between 1946 and 1964) are sitting on over $6 trillion of home equity, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Whether or not you’ve fully paid off your mortgage, the equity in your home can provide the financial freedom and flexibility to re imagine life during a second (or third) act. To better understand the options and how to leverage existing equity, it’s important to speak to a professional, says Peter Jianette, northeast divisional director at Chase. “Speak to a [Chase] Home Lending Advisor to make sure a plan makes sense.”

Image result for Modular Cabinet and Shelving Set  GIF advertisementsOne crucial consideration when it comes to downsizing is retirement. The Insured Retirement Institute’s (IRI) annual Baby Boomer report has consistently shown that “Boomers are largely unprepared for retirement: unrealistic in their expectations and under-saved.”

Housing may provide a financial lifeline for Boomers. “Collectively, the vast inventory of homes possessed by older Americans”—approximately 46 million homes—“is worth an estimated $13.5 trillion,” according to Fannie Mae.

Rather than dipping into savings or going deeper into debt, older Americans can often leverage the value of their homes to address their retirement needs.

“The best advice when a customer is trying to better understand what is in their best interest— stay or downsize—would be to meet with our One Chase Team,” says Jianette.

Figure out where you want to live and what lifestyle is the best fit. Some retirees find apartment living in urban areas attractive because of access to mass transit, culture and entertainment. Others prefer to live in warmer climates, or want to be near their kids and grandkids.

Whatever appeals to you, make sure you’re aware of market conditions—both where you’re planning to sell and hoping to buy. That will help determine whether now is a good time to sell and what kind of home you can afford.

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The U.S. housing market is strong overall, but the value of your home can and will likely fluctuate over time. While the market is stable today, there’s no guarantee of the future—so that’s a risk to keep under consideration.

Moving can be expensive, even if you’re downsizing. There are also costs associated with both buying and selling homes, including real estate agent commissions, home improvements, transfer fees and taxes.

Some of these costs may be obvious, others less so. That’s why it’s important to use the resources Chase provides to ensure there are no surprises. “We just want to make sure the customers are 100% in the know of what they’re signing up for,” Jianette says. For example, many retirees looking to downsize are surprised to find they may not qualify for a mortgage because their income is greatly decreased from their working years.

“The same underwriting criteria goes for a smaller house—retirees need to be able to qualify for a mortgage on their own,” Jianette explains. “The last thing any lender wants is to put someone in a home they can’t afford.”

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In addition, he notes that while many empty nesters “can afford the general maintenance of the house, rising property taxes can cause uncomfortable stress,” especially for those living on a fixed income.

Also, if you’ve owned your home for a long time—say 15 years or more—odds are it has increased in value, which can mean capital gains taxes when you sell. Speak with your tax advisor about your situation before deciding to buy or sell.

While the details can seem intimidating, you can lean on a Chase Home Lending Advisor to help guide you through the process.

“Our Chase Home Lending Advisors do an amazing job creating a goal-based plan with our customers,” Jianette says, “and discussing what would be the best for that individual customer.”

Chase has mortgage options to purchase a new home or to refinance an existing one. Our home equity line of credit lets you tap into your home’s equity to pay for home improvements or other expenses. Get started online to request mortgage prequalification or with a Chase Home Lending Advisor.

Source: Deciding To Downsize

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The 50 Best Private Equity Firms for Entrepreneurs

Private equity firms have been called all kinds of nasty names over the years: asset strippers, corporate raiders, vulture capitalists. Don’t be deterred by these labels. The PE firms making headlines over high-profile corporate bankruptcies such as Toys “R” Us are rarely the same investors who back small businesses. In fact, more and more companies are taking private equity investment. In the U.S., the number of PE-backed businesses is up 25 percent compared with 2014, according to research firm PitchBook. So don’t forget to call PE firms something else: business builders.

PE by the numbers
$752 billion Amount of uninvested capital that PE companies have at their disposal. That’s a record, up from $469 billion in 2014.
Source: Preqin
25% Increase from 2014 through 2018 in the number of private equity-backed U.S. companies, up from 6,177 to 7,737.
Source: PitchBook
10.1% Revenue growth at PE-backed middle-market companies in 2018. Non-PE-backed middle-market companies grew more slowly that year–7.9%.
Source: The National Center for the Middle Market at the Ohio State University
$713B The total value of private equity deals in the U.S. in 2018. That figure has increased 35 percent from 2014.
Source: PitchBook

For some private equity firms, investing in founder-led businesses is a big part of the strategy–if not the strategy itself. Before you test the private equity waters, however, you should first take a hard look at your company. “Founders need to think about what they want out of a PE fund,” says Nick Leopard, founder and CEO of Accordion Partners, a financial consulting firm that works with private equity-backed companies.

Some entrepreneurs turn to private equity to help execute their vision; others bring in PE firms to collaborate on new strategies or to finance acquisitions. “Doing that self-inspection first is really important,” Leopard says.

Private equity firms are now sitting on a record amount of uninvested capital, which is good news for businesses seeking funds. That cash pile is prompting those firms to expand their purview and do deals with businesses that just five years ago would have been unlikely targets, according to Tom Stewart, executive director of the National Center for the Middle Market. ”

They’re investing in younger, earlier-stage companies, and they’re more willing to take a minority stake than they were, because they’ve got to put the money to work,” Stewart says. “It’s more of a sellers’ market.”

Family businesses are often strong can­didates for outside investment. “It’s a rare family that can continue to evolve and grow a business without help from a third party,” says Dave Brackett, co-founder and CEO of private credit manager Antares Capital, which has helped finance acqui­sitions for more than 400 private equity firms. “You constantly need to innovate and bring people on board.”

Selling a meaningful stake in your company can be life-altering. That’s why we’ve created this list of founder-friendly private equity firms. We identified firms that have invested in founder-led companies, gathered data on how their portfolio companies have grown, and asked entrepreneurs to tell us about their experiences–including what any founder should know about outside investors.

That research has yielded our list of 50 firms with a track record of successfully backing entrepreneurs. Think of it as the first step in doing your own due diligence.

The Top 50 Founder-Friendly Private Equity Firms

PE FIRM U.S. HQ SIZE OF TARGET PORTFOLIO COMPANIES
Accel-KKR Menlo Park, CA $15M-$200M annual revenue
Alpine Investors San Francisco, CA $5M-$100M annual revenue
Berkshire Partners Boston, MA $100M and above in annual revenue
Blue Point Capital Partners Cleveland, OH $20M-$300M annual revenue
Brentwood Associates Los Angeles, CA $25M-$500M annual revenue
Bridge Growth Partners New York, NY $50M-$500M annual revenue
CCMP Capital New York, NY $250M-$2B enterprise value
Clayton, Dubilier & Rice New York, NY Typically invests $100M and above
Clearview Capital Stamford, CT $4M-$20M EBITDA
Cortec Group New York, NY $40M-$300M annual revenue
Endeavour Capital Portland, OR $25M-$250M annual revenue
Frontier Capital Charlotte, NC $10M-$30M annual revenue
General Atlantic New York, NY $25M-$300M annual revenue
Genesis Park Houston, TX $5M-$100M annual revenue
Great Hill Partners Boston, MA $25M-$500M enterprise value
Gridiron Capital New Canaan, CT $75M-$650M enterprise value
JMI Equity Baltimore, MD
San Diego, CA
$10M-$50M annual revenue
JMK Consumer Growth Partners New York, NY $2M and above in annual revenue
Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors Los Angeles, CA $5M-$50M annual revenue
LLR Partners Philadelphia, PA $10M-$100M annual revenue
Main Post Partners San Francisco, CA $25M-$250M annual revenue
MidOcean Partners New York, NY $100M-$500M enterprise value
Mountaingate Capital Denver, CO $5M-$25M EBITDA
Palladium Equity Partners New York, NY $10M-$75M EBITDA
Pamlico Capital Charlotte, NC $10M-$150M annual revenue
Permira Menlo Park, CA
New York, NY
$200M-$5B enterprise value
Prospect Partners Chicago, IL $10M-$75M annual revenue
Quad-C Management Charlottesville, VA $75M-$500M enterprise value
Ridgemont Equity Partners Charlotte, NC $5M-$50M EBITDA
The Riverside Company New York, NY $400M enterprise value or less
Sagemount New York, NY $15M-$250M annual revenue
Serent Capital San Francisco, CA $5M-$100M annual revenue
Shamrock Capital Los Angeles, CA $20M-$300M annual revenue
Shorehill Capital Chicago, IL $3M-$15M EBITDA
ShoreView Industries Minneapolis, MN $20M-$225M annual revenue
Sole Source Capital Santa Monica, CA $35M and below EBITDA
Source Capital Atlanta, GA $10M-$75M annual revenue
Spell Capital Minneapolis, MN $5M and above in annual revenue
The Sterling Group Houston, TX $50M-$750M annual revenue
Stripes New York, NY $10M and above in annual revenue
TA Associates Boston, MA $100M-$250M annual revenue
Tecum Capital Wexford, PA $3M-$15M EBITDA
Thomas H. Lee Partners Boston, MA $250M-$2.5B enterprise value
Tower Arch Capital Draper, UT $20M-$150M annual revenue
TPG Growth San Francisco, CA $15M and above in annual revenue
Trilantic North America New York, NY $100M-$1B enterprise value
Tritium Partners Austin, TX $5M-$100M annual revenue
Trivest Partners Coral Gables, FL $20M-$200M annual revenue
TSG Consumer Partners San Francisco, CA Declines to disclose
Wynnchurch Capital Rosemont, IL $50M-$1B annual revenue

By: Graham Winfrey

Source: The 50 Best Private Equity Firms for Entrepreneurs

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Buying and Selling Property With Bitcoin Is More Complex Than It May Seem

Buying and selling property using cryptocurrency is less straightforward than was first assumed. The handful of mortgage lenders and realtors who were initially keen are now reluctant to accept crypto deposits due to money laundering fears. Until there is greater clarity concerning crypto regulation, due diligence procedures and taxation, potential participants are opting to wait on the sidelines.

Source: Buying and Selling Property With Bitcoin Is More Complex Than It May Seem – Bitcoin News