GreatCall was founded in 2006 to provide aging adults with accessible technology and services so that they could live independently longer.
As a pioneer in the burgeoning active aging segment, it quickly became the market leader. However, in 2015, with the original venture investors ready for a liquidity event, an unsuccessful sales process took place. In response, the company’s board of directors recruited Brian Berning into the role of Chief Financial Officer. Berning—who brought significant expertise in raising capital, successful M&A, and achievements of operational efficiencies at prior companies—had a straightforward mandate: Evaluate the reasons for the failed exit, develop a new strategy, and execute a plan for a successful liquidity event.
After a thorough review, Berning partnered with the leadership to develop and execute a growth and recovery strategy: Ensure appropriate corporate governance, risk management, compliance, and controls were established and properly monitored; Establish an M&A function to fully support a successful process; and pursue acquisitions to further advance the company’s position in connected health.
The outcome of these actions produced the desired results: The company’s equity value was maximized, and the likelihood of a successful liquidity event was greatly increased. Consequently, in July 2017, private equity firm GTCR acquired GreatCall in a transaction that resulted in a substantial gain to the original venture investors. Berning stayed onboard as CFO post-acquisition plus assumed an additional responsibility as a member of the newly comprised board of directors.
With an eye toward continued growth, GTCR committed capital for more strategic acquisitions. Concomitantly, Berning matured the company’s debt compliance practices and introduced new reporting metrics designed to accelerate growth and maximize the value of a future transaction, which was anticipated to occur in 3-5 years. However, in the first six months following the GTCR transaction, Best Buy, a multinational consumer electronics retailer, engaged the board of directors regarding an acquisition of the company. In just over a year beyond the prior transaction, Best Buy acquired GreatCall for $800 million, producing a significant return for GTCR.