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4 Days, 3 Deals and a Wedding: How This Austin Kirkland Partner Navigated a Particularly Hectic Weekend

In this article for Texas Lawyer, partner John Kaercher was profiled for his recent work leading three deals simultaneously.

Kirkland & Ellis M&A and private equity partner John Kaercher of Austin powered through a hectic weekend recently, working as a lead lawyer on three deals announced over a 24-hour period on Sept. 26 and 27, while also attending a family wedding in Kansas City, Missouri, as the deals neared the finish line.

The weekend before the announcement of the deals was “completely full of work,” Kaercher said, noting that he had to step out of the wedding reception on Sept. 23 a few times to take phone calls. He booked a return flight to Austin late in the day on Sept. 24, because he knew he would be working actively on the transactions beginning in the wee hours of the morning.

From Friday through Monday of that weekend, Kaercher said, he didn’t sleep much, in part because one of the deals involved a company in Norway, and the time zone difference led to very early starts for him and his team.

“That’s the nature of the work,” he said.

Kaercher was a lead on the team representing Guardian Capital Group in Guardian Smart Infrastructure Management’s agreement to acquire a controlling interest in Q-Free ASA, which provides intelligent transportation systems. In the deal announced on Sept. 26, Guardian agreed to acquire the interest from Rieber & Son, a family-owned investment company in Norway. Norwegian firm Wikborg Rein represented the majority shareholder, Kaercher said.

In the other deal announced on Sept. 26, Kaercher led the Kirkland team advising Thoma Bravo and its portfolio company, Exostar, in the sale of Exostar to Arlington Capital Partners. Exostar is a business collaboration platform for industries including aerospace and defense, health care and life sciences. Thoma Bravo is a software investment company, and Arlington Capital Partners a private equity firm based in Washington, D.C. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher represented Arlington.

Kaercher also led the deal team advising Marlin Equity Partners and its portfolio company, Virgin Pulse, a global digital-first health, well-being and navigation company, on a definitive agreement to merge with HealthComp, a benefits and analytics platform. Kirkland and McDermott Will & Emery represented Virgin Pulse, while HealthComp turned to Ropes & Gray on the deal announced on Sept. 27.

Kaercher, who joined Kirkland in Austin in May 2021, was the first lateral hired for that office after it opened in April 2021. He came from Baker Botts.

Kirkland started working on each of the deals three or four months ago, Kaercher said, and they were roughly on the same timeline. Thoma Bravo and Marlin Equity are longtime clients, he said, but it was Kirkland’s first transaction for Guardian Capital.

The week leading up to the deal agreements was busy, Kaercher said, and the closing weekend just happened to hit the same time as the wedding.

While it’s not uncommon to work long hours right before a deal is announced, the fact that Norway was involved meant that he and others on the team had to get up early—and that included 4 a.m. on the Sunday after the wedding for Kaercher.

Bergen, Norway, where Rieber is located, is seven hours ahead of Texas.

While the deals were all converging on the finish line, it worked out well, Kaercher said, with the parties coming to agreements in succession: one on Friday, one over the weekend, and one Monday morning.

Kaercher said he was able to juggle it all because of the quality of the team working with him, and time management skills he said he’s honed over many years.

“You can’t plan for everything, especially when deals are in their crazy moments,” he said, adding that he focuses on making sure that the moment he hears anything related to the deal, he is sure to keep his team in the loop.

“The most important piece is open lines of communication and a sense of urgency,” he said.

His style is to “get pretty into the weeds,” even as a lead lawyer on a transaction because he thinks it’s important to have a good understanding.

Fortunately, Kaercher said, no big hitches arose at the end with any of the deals, which all involved technology.

The Friday before the big weekend, Kaercher said he spent all day in the office on numerous phone calls and quickly turning around documents. That evening, he took a flight to Kansas City.

“Honestly, all three of them were pretty quick,” Kaercher said in reflecting on the deals, crediting his nimble Kirkland team in Austin, Houston, Chicago and New York.