First West Capital aids in shareholder buyout for Winnipeg-based business

A change in ownership was necessary in order to maximize on the opportunities that were available to the organization.

In its continued growth across Western Canada, First West Capital today announced it has provided funding to Big Freight Systems Inc. to support a shareholder buyout process. Founded in 1948, Big Freight is a family business based in Steinbach, Manitoba. The company was initially a local carrier operating between Steinbach and Winnipeg and through a number of acquisitions, expanded across Canada and into the US.  During the past two decades, the company has grown and diversified its operations to include freight management, supply chain solutions and more recently, warehousing.

Today, Big Freight has operational infrastructure across Canada in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Steinbach, Toronto and Montreal.  As businesses evolve, so too do the demands on management and as Gary Coleman, President and CEO of Big Freight shares, it became evident that a change in ownership was necessary in order to maximize on the opportunities that were available to the organization.

Coleman says, “It just so happened, the First West Capital team was in Winnipeg on business during this time and did a presentation to our longtime banker as well as members of the advisory services team that we ended up hiring to assist in the negotiation of the shareholder buyout. Both parties were very impressed with the First West Capital presentation and suggested we connect with Kristi to chat further about our options.”

“When we met with Kristi, we were very impressed with their portfolio of work. It was very important to us that if we were going to engage her company that we felt comfortable that they were willing to do a deal in our sector and that whatever they suggested to us as a possible solution would ultimately be able to get credit approval,” adds Coleman. “Seeing First West Capital pull together our deal in such a short timeframe proved to us that they could deliver on what was promised. They dealt effectively with the unknowns as they unfolded and, over the course of a month, we developed a high level of trust with them. Kristi and her team played a vital role in my ability to close the deal.”

“When we met with Kristi, we were very impressed with their portfolio of work. It was very important to us that if we were going to engage her company that we felt comfortable that they were willing to do a deal in our sector and that whatever they suggested to us as a possible solution would ultimately be able to get credit approval.”

Kristi Miller, co-founder and vice-president of First West Capital, was eager to help. “When I heard Big Freight’s story, I was excited to have an opportunity to work with such a well-established Canadian, family-owned company. The organization has been around for over 65 years and has succeeded in a changing industry. In order to stay relevant and better serve the needs of their clients, Big Freight decided to go through some changes themselves and this included their recent shareholder buyout.”

Miller continues, “Working closely with multiple lending partners, we were able to bring this transaction together quickly. Throughout the process, we were careful to fully consider all of Big Freight’s balance sheet assets, their working capital and their equipment and real estate assets, so as to create a structure that optimizes the company’s cost of capital and repayment terms.  First West Capital’s agility allowed us to accommodate changes as the deal evolved.”

“I, along with the rest of the executive team, see tremendous opportunities for our company as we continue to drive the business forward,” says Coleman. “Since the transaction was completed, we’ve been doing a lot of work to expand our capability including upgrading our fleet of trucks and trailers, enhancing our IT platform, upgrading the leadership within our Fleet Maintenance team, further expanding our Freight Optimization Program as well as focusing on our team internally to take our corporate culture and organizational health to new levels. Throughout these last few months, it’s been such a pleasure working with Kristi and the First West Capital team. They have such high energy and great creativity and demonstrated tremendous flexibility in finding solutions that meet the requirements of our deal.”

Miller adds, “The Winnipeg market is certainly a compelling one. It’s well diversified, stable and features a large number of family-owned businesses that are currently facing succession issues. Despite its economic strength and stability, there are relatively few capital providers based in Winnipeg, which poses a great opportunity for First West Capital. As we continue our growth across Western Canada, First West Capital is excited about the Manitoba market and we look forward to expanding our presence and profile in Winnipeg.”