Bill Haddad is congenial. As a natural listener and encourager, (perhaps that comes from being a father of six) he is a re-assuring presence on WCNY’s Board of Directors.
Bill is also a leading capital markets and M&A practitioner in New York. He has worked on a full range of securities offerings, and transactions, with a particular focus on international listings, and mergers and acquisitions in the United States, China, Europe, Australia, Eastern Europe, Israel and Ireland. Bill has been involved in more than 100 capital markets transactions, providing a unique familiarity and strength in the area of initial and follow-on public offerings, special purpose acquisition companies, shelf-takedowns, registered directs, PIPEs, at-the-market offerings (ATMs), mergers of public and private companies, going-private transactions, private equity and venture capital formation and investments, 144A debt offerings of public and private companies and rights offerings.
What do you do?
I’m a partner at Reed Smith, a global law firm that has been around since 1877. We have 1,800 lawyers around the world, located in all the international money centers, and throughout the U.S., Europe, the Middle East and Asia in all the main business centers. We offer a broad spectrum of advice to medium and large companies.
For myself, I work mostly in three areas. I help companies go public, representing companies or underwriters to engage in the process of financing. I help clients buy and sell companies in the merger and acquisition space. And I help public companies with their day to day securities questions and filings. I’ve practiced for 20 years, been a partner for 11 years, and a partner at Reed Smith for approximately 4 years.
What is a typical day like?
My day is spent in board meetings, counseling clients on the issues involved in being public, in raising money, in going public, and helping with their business needs.
To be a successful lawyer, you do need to be a great lawyer and you also need to be a valued business adviser. For example, clients ask, what do I need to do next? I say “raise money” they ask: “Where do I go?” Then I refer them to someone in my network of funds, family offices, and investment banks.
Can you tell us about some interesting transactions?
Last year, I represented a company publicly traded in South Africa that did a ‘rights offering’. Goldman Sachs was the underwriter and they raised $500 million. Besides being tremendously successful, it was interesting because the firm was based in South Africa. As part of Reed Smith, I advised them on U.S. securities laws issues. The professionals, meaning the Goldman Sachs team, and the lawyers for both Goldman and the issuer, were based in London. Most of the group meetings were in London, just for convenience.
Then I represented a Chinese group, in their majority control investment into a NASDAQ listed company. They invested approximately $25 million and acquired the necessary voting interests, to give them considerable control of the company.
Recently, I represented a high-net worth family office. They made a significant purchase of a U.S. precision machine company. There was equity, there was Mezzanine debt, and there was senior debt in the transaction. It was a very successful deal, and now they are looking to do a follow-up transaction.
How do you judge if there is a successful deal?
Great question. Not everyone knows this, but not every deal closes. So, this deal closed! All sides are happy that it did close, with the way it closed, and content with the terms. And they are going forward with another transaction.
What has changed in your work in recent years?
What does not change is that you have to continually provide good service, good advice, constantly think ahead for your client, how to protect your client, how they can be successful.
In terms of the financial world –we do live in a world that is more liquid. Multiples on M&A deals and available money indicate that in the U.S. the markets are in good shape. Valuations are back up, and confidence is back up. The real change, and this may not be related to 2008, but events seem to happen quicker.
Can you give an example?
In the oil and gas sector – prices were recently over $100 per barrel. Now because of the weaker economies in Europe and China and the production of oil from shale, the price per barrel can be as low as $50. It’s like a tax break for consumers.
Or the way the stock market moves – a few months ago it was 600 points down in one day, partly because of technology trading. However, because of liquidity, there is so much cash that those who saw an opportunity, brought it back up 400 points the same day. Another example is so many industries being interrelated. So,
when Russia invades Ukraine, that has a rippling effect.
How do you think about managing your clients’ risk?
Client’s come to me with transactions or a problem they need to solve. I try to handle it as effectively and as quickly as possible, to close the deal while protecting their interests. It’s like algebra, you are constantly trying to solve for problems in a transaction. In that M&A deal I mentioned, in the final week new due diligence issues arose, things in the financial documents, issues that had to be solved.
The other way I help them manage risk is to anticipate. For example, I have one early stage biotech company trying to raise several million dollars. My advice to them was that on a parallel path, they needed to keep raising money from various sources – because I’ve seen biotech companies run out of money while they were growing. I’m always reading documents from the SEC – to help clients anticipate securities issues. Having done a number of transactions in various environments, also helps me to give clients the benefit of that experience.
What core part of who your personality helps you to be successful?
It may surprise you – but when I think of who I am – and what has made me successful – I think it’s work ethic. If people ask me what I’m looking for in new associates that we hire, I just think that work ethic is crucial. It can’t be overemphasized. I’m operating 24/7. I wake up in the morning, I’m already checking emails, and I may have a late night call with Asia or another foreign jurisdiction, because of the time difference.
Second, it’s a little underestimated – but I really think our Wharton education is the basis of an ongoing practical base of business knowledge. I am asked daily, for business advice, that education combined with basic acumen has made a difference.
What do you wish students understood today?
Have a global skillset. And be prepared. My sons are in the Boy Scouts, and I’m active as a leader. Their motto is to Be Prepared. I’d say to students that you got into Wharton because you made preparation a priority. Now prepare for the world we are in which is global, which requires as much intellectual agility as you can develop. I would tell them to take advantage of every opportunity you can, to develop your network, and your skill sets. Make the investment in your career, because you just don’t know what’s going to work out sometimes. You know if you look around the globe and if you’re living in the U.S., the opportunities here, you have to recognize that we hit the lottery being in the U.S..
What was your path to Wharton?
I was interested in business, so I attended as an undergraduate. My major was Entrepreneur Management and Accounting. Afterwards I worked a few years at Ernst and Young, and then I attended law school.
What is your role in the Wharton Club?
I’m a member of the Board of Directors and the Secretary of the club. And I’m on the Steering Committee of the Wharton Alumni Angel Network. I’ve been active for 14 years in the club. Previously I was an officer, the VP of Business Development which included the affinity groups. In fact the hedge fund affinity group started from a breakfast I had with Jason Breemen, WG’02 I asked him, “Why don’t you start a hedge fund affinity group?” He created the Wharton Hedge Fund Network (WHFN). Jewell Huijnen, WG’03, took over, and hit it out of the park.
At the Board level, we meet several times per year. We try to execute the strategic vision of the Club to create more opportunities for members and alumni. I make sure minutes are in order from the various meetings.
Being a father of six is an accomplishment in the modern age. How do you balance that with your corporate life?
I have a saintly wife, a woman of patience. She does a great job. It’s not for everybody, but we love it. Our first two children went to Penn, so that was nice. It is all – consuming, but if you are passionate about something, then it comes naturally. People say do what you love, and that’s what we do. While there is never a dull moment with six children, it is the most rewarding thing you can do with your time.