Conventional wisdom says the third time’s the charm. For Rashid Skaf, though, the fourth time was the charm in his quest towards the recent Biamp acquisition, a dream he realized last month after about 10 years of trying.
Skaf, who took over as Biamp president, CEO and co-chairman when Highlander Partners bought the company, says the Beaverton, Ore.-based Biamp was one of about 150 companies Highlander had talked to in its quest to get into the AV integration space—and there are more deals to come.
After Skaf left AMX, he joined Highlander and got the green light from owner Larry Hirsch to canvass the market to figure out how to best bring the private equity firm into the growing AV integration world.
That search encompassed about 12 to 15 months, says Skaf, and Biamp has long been the apple of his eye because of its “culture and ethos.”
“It’s a company that’s always done right by its customers,” says Skaf of the company he now leads. He sees the Biamp acquisition as “a good foundation to tuck other companies into,” saying it could take a year or so before Highlander makes its next AV integration-centric deal.
“Everything I do is about growth. You’re either growing or you’re dying. I really love running companies and tinkering to make them better. This is not the end, but I’m giving myself the first year to find the right opportunities,” he says.
Highlander bought Biamp from Lomar Corporation, a company that owned Biamp for about 28 years and is led by two brothers who didn’t have anyone in the next generation looking to take over Biamp. It was largely a case of good timing and an enticing offer that finally led to Skaf becoming the man at Biamp’s helm, he says.
And, while the term “private equity” brings with it an idea that the investment will be short-term before Highlander flips it and moves on to something else, Skaf says that’s not what he expects to happen with the Biamp acquisition.
“They have no timetable in place,” he says. “When we talk about Highlander, we’re really talking about Larry. It’s his money we’re investing.”
As far as private equity and venture capital companies investing in AV integrators and fellow manufacturing companies, Skaf sees the industry becoming “more interesting.”
“There are a lot of companies that are becoming ripe for acquisition right now, and all variants are available for expansion, whether that means vertical expansion, geographic expansion or an expansion into a particular expertise,” he says.
Right now, there’s no end date in mind for it, either.
“With Highlander buying into the AV market, other groups that haven’t been looking at AV will certainly start to do that as well. The biggest challenge is it’s more risky in the tech space than in some others. You have to really know what you’re doing and to keep up with the technology,” says Skaf.