In a regional showdown of corporate financial acumen, the OSU’s MBA Corporate Finance team bested groups from the University of Oregon, the University of Washington and Seattle University to bring home the ACG Cup Northwest.
The ACG Cup Northwest is a case study competition among MBA students placed in a high-pressure setting to solve a real-world business challenge. In the competition students analyze a finance-related case in the field of mergers and acquisitions, investment banking, financial advisory and private equity, and then develop and present a case solution to a panel of industry professionals.
OSU students ― Daniel Pitluck, Brad Stricklin and Patrick McBrien ― presented their winning solutions to a panel of judges comprised of leading finance executives. This was the college’s first year for the win, but the second consecutive appearance in the final round.
Team member Brad Stricklin lays out the bones of the case, describing a company at a crossroads, needing to evaluate whether to stay as a standalone company, merge with another company, or be acquired in a leveraged buyout.
“The company in question for the case study was in the defense industry,” Stricklin said. “We were tasked with analyzing strategic alternatives for the company presenting our recommendation to ‘our board.’ For the final round of judging, we faced a ‘board’ that included the VP of Commercial and Wealth Banking at Umpqua Bank, Torran Nixon, and Stephen Babson, the managing director at Endeavor Capital, a private equity firm based in Seattle,” Stricklin said.
The team members, who all live in different cities, would meet up at coffee shops along the I-5 corridor on Saturday and Sunday mornings and hold a conference call on Tuesday nights to stay on top of their analyses. They studied other business cases, reworking scenarios from past years and sharing news articles. These preparations began in November.
The ACG project solidified one team member’s career interest post-MBA. Dan Pitluck made the decision to work in financial services, after enjoying the intensity of their analytical work. Pitluck attributes the team’s success to these long-term efforts and a dedication to a deep understanding of the material.
“It was easy to tell how much time Brad spent learning the necessary skills to lead our analysis,” Pitluck said. “This was extremely helpful for me, since I do not have an extensive finance background, to have with teammates who would walk through any questions I had.”
The next team goal is to figure out a way to actually celebrate the victory together somewhere after all that hard work.
“We are all excited to finish our MBAs in June, though it’s hard to believe the ACG competition itself has already come and gone,” said team member Patrick McBrien. “The three of us seemed to have a natural unity of purpose. I was floored by their level of commitment. It really felt like we were exercising a professional level of dedication to working on this project, and I think that was borne out by the results.”
The Association for Corporate Growth hosts the annual event among the top two Oregon and Washington teams following preliminary rounds within the College of Business and against other Oregon university teams.
The team was mentored by OSU alumnus Nate Liebler, principal at Newell Craig, LLC and, at the college, by faculty advisor and assistant professor of finance Jonathan Kalodimos. Dr. Kalodimos has integrated preparation for the competition into the curriculum in his Advanced Corporate Finance course.
Through the term, six teams moved through two rounds of competitive eliminations to identify the two top teams to represent OSU in the semi-finals.
“In Advanced Corporate Finance the students learn the quantitative skills necessary to compete, but, importantly, we also give them a framework to evaluate the qualitative or ‘soft’ aspects of business situations and cases,” Kalodimos said. “The soft side of finance is underappreciated skill, but we think developing our MBA students’ understanding of the soft side of finance is crucial for them to thrive in a competitive industry.”
Photo credit: Ideagility