Neil Shah says, “miss me”? Because, Terminator-style, he’s back.
Just when you think things might be starting to quiet down, we get a news release announcing another shakeup in the SPAC landscape. This time, Evercore (NYSE: EVR), has announced its intention to get into the SPAC business by hiring Neil Shah, who was formerly a Managing Director at Citigroup running the Alternative Capital Markets business globally, as well as Citi’s Private Capital Markets business. Most importantly, Neil formerly ran Citi’s SPAC practice, so this is big news in SPAC Land.
Interestingly, Evercore, as a firm, makes a very compelling competitor to the current pool of SPAC advisors and underwriters. In particular, the back-ends, the “de-SPACings”. Evercore’s greatest strength has always been in its Capital Markets Advisory, considered one of the best independent firms, so it’s no surprise that Neil Shah, (per the press release) will be “joining its Advisory practice focusing on advising financial sponsor clients as well as launching and leading Evercore’s permanent capital business globally, including SPACs.” Neil, if you were around back in 2005, was a bit of a pioneer for the bulge bracket banks when it came to SPACs by underwriting Boulder Specialty Brands in that year, the first SPAC by a major bank. It was a bit of big deal to have Citigroup underwrite a SPAC, which at that point, the product wasn’t on many people’s radar. As for Boulder. its acquisition was Smart Balance, which was eventually acquired by Pinnacle Foods in 2015, for $11.00 a share.
Clearly, this is a real opportunity for Evercore to very quickly establish a presence in the SPAC market, notably, the back-ends. However, considering they can also participate in the front-ends, the big question is, how big of a dip will Evercore ALSO be making into the SPAC Underwriting pool? It’s the big unknown, but the fact that Neil Shah’s last three SPAC IPOs at Citi were Collier Creek (CCH), Churchill Capital (CCC) and Spartan Energy (SPAQ), means Evercore would be a meaningful player if they do decide to focus heavily on that route. Consequently, the League Tables could get VERY interesting going forward. Especially since there has been so much shuffling amongst the major players at the Tier-1 banks this year. In fact, just a few months ago, Morgan Stanley hired Bennett Schachter, from Goldman Sachs. Essentially, we now have two, new contenders potentially vying to lead the League Tables.
Nevertheless, Neil Shah was a very smart hire for Evercore. As a firm, Evercore has a ton of M&A expertise, but those of us in SPAC Land know that’s not enough for this asset class. SPACs are tricky business and you need an expert, someone who fully understands this product to be successful. The fact that Evercore went and hired Neil Shah, means they’re not fooling around. They’re playing to win.