Blackford Capital named Private Equity Firm of the Year

From left, Blackford Capital team members Kent Walters, Andrew Hakim, Jeff Johnson and Rachel Stein accept the firm’s awards from The M&A Advisor on Wednesday, Nov. 17. Courtesy Blackford Capital

A local private equity firm was named Private Equity Firm of the Year and received the Private Equity Deal of the Year award by The M&A Advisor.

Grand Rapids-based Blackford Capital received the two honors at the 20th annual M&A Advisor Awards on Wednesday, Nov. 17.

“Out of a field of 16 incredible firms nominated, we are honored to be recognized as Private Equity Firm of the Year by the M&A Advisor,” said Martin Stein, Blackford Capital founder and managing director. “2021 has been a tremendous year for Blackford — our team has completed more transactions than ever before and are operating 11 portfolio companies in three countries. This honor is an affirmation of our amazing team, who are completing more transactions per investment professional than just about any other PE firm in the country.

“To be recognized alongside such impressive firms as Gen Cap America, McNally Capital, Seidler Equity Partners, Wellspring Capital Management and WestView Capital Partners is truly an honor. We’re looking forward to building on this momentum in the coming years.”

In addition to the PE Firm of the Year honor, Blackford’s January 2021 majority acquisition of Aqua-Leisure was awarded Private Equity Deal of the Year in the $50 million-$75 million category.

“The Deal of the Year award is particularly sweet for us as the Aqua-Leisure transaction required our team to push the boundaries of deal innovation,” Stein said. “It was a complicated transaction that was executed during the height of the initial COVID-19 outbreak, and we were able to navigate all of the challenges and negotiate a compelling deal to acquire a majority of Aqua-Leisure that is already outperforming our growth expectations. I’m extremely proud of our team and partners.”

This year’s award marks the second time Blackford has been recognized as Private Equity Firm of the Year by The M&A Advisor, having previously won in 2018.

Additionally, Blackford received Deal of the Year honors on four other occasions, including in 2017 and 2015, and Martin Stein was named Private Equity Professional of the Year in 2016.

More information on the awards program is at

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