2024 Trailblazer

A discussion with Allan Ellinger, Senior Managing Partner, MMG Advisors

Allan has been instrumental in building and evolving the practice from its initial turnaround/restructuring emphasis to one of the preeminent full-service M&A firms servicing the fashion and consumer products sector. Since 1989, Allan and the firm have been involved in hundreds of engagements including restructurings, sell-side, and buy-side investment banking assignments. Allan is an active fashion insider who strongly believes in, and advocates for, social responsibility. Learn more as we count down to April 16!

MMG is celebrating a significant milestone in 2024 – 35 years in the apparel and retail brands sector. You are incredibly passionate about this community and your work. Tell us what has driven you throughout these past years, and what continues to drive you and MMG today.
I love what I do and I’m passionate about it because of the positive impact that we make on people’s lives. Having been operators prior to founding MMG, my two partners and I have a distinct advantage as we understand the businesses we represent and speak our clients' language. Every transaction has its challenges, and everyone has an individual story. We custom tailor each transaction to our clients’ individual needs. Selling a business, especially when it represents the entrepreneur's life's work or a second or third-generation family-run business is an awesome responsibility. Our clients trust us to convert what is often their single largest asset into investible cash that will support them and their families for years to come.  We also do quite a bit of buy-side work, where we help companies grow through strategic, laser focused acquisitions. Today, our buy-side work represents approximately one-third of our assignments.    

I’m really proud of all the M&A deals that we have closed on our clients’ behalf. We love what we do, and our clients know it.  

How do you see the M&A landscape evolving in the coming years?
The fashion industry will continue to consolidate as companies look to grow strategically and seek economies of scale, improved efficiency, diversification of sourcing and supply chain, balancing concentration with big box retailers, and the need to enhance their digital capabilities. If you take all of this into account, it is often more economical to acquire than to build internally.

I believe that we will see an increasing amount of activity during the next few years as a result of a slow-down in M&A activity during and post Covid. We also feel that there will be an increase in private equity activity as many PE firms have sat on the sidelines over the past few years. Additionally, the importance of brands will continue as companies seek to acquire brands to remain more competitive, strengthen margins, and build enterprise value. 

While I think technology and AI will be a factor in M&A work and may help to bring efficiencies to the process, technology cannot replace the human factors that an experienced M&A advisor who knows the space brings to the table. The skill of understanding the cultural fit when merging two companies or evaluating the efficiencies and economics of combining two complementary entities requires nuanced expertise and insights. 

What does the word sustainability mean to you?
Sustainability as it relates to our business means creating transactions between a buyer and a seller that are culturally aligned and will withstand the test of time. Too many transactions fail after they close because the buyer’s and seller’s business cultures clash or their long-term agendas aren’t aligned. We tell clients that aligning cultures and agendas and agreeing on long-term objectives that withstand the test of time, and are therefore sustainable, is often more important than getting the highest price. Clients typically stay with the company for a few years post-closing, as they often have a stake in the financial results for a few years subsequent to closing. Cultural alignment helps to ensure that both the buyer and seller maximize their respective objectives.  

It's important to remember that overall, almost every client with whom we work with is focused on creating and selling sustainable product. It’s what today’s educated consumer expects of the brands and products they covet. We work with our clients to make sure that their transaction addresses their sustainability objectives.

Your leadership led to the creation of Fashion Delivers in 2005 to provide apparel to the needy. These solutions built a pathway for the fashion community to directly support those at their most vulnerable. As the charity work continued, in 2013, you merged with KIDS and rebranded the organization to Delivering Good. Tell us about this journey.  
It’s really been an amazing journey. When we started Fashion Delivers over eighteen years ago, I couldn’t possibly imagine what we would accomplish. In our first year we shipped $6 million dollars of new products to disaster victims and the needy. We were a start-up.

We now average $150 to $175 million of new products each year, have a full-time CEO, a staff of fourteen people and a board of thirty-eight passionate members who volunteer their time, expertise, and financial support. We also have hundreds of product donor companies who provide us with millions of units of new product each year. We have and continue to put smiles on the faces of millions of people to help restore their dignity by providing brand new apparel, accessories, home, and personal care products. 

I am very proud and very appreciative of everyone that’s been on this journey with us. It puts a smile on my face 😊