out there.” To do that, a company needs to gain size — growing both organically and through acquisition. And with Garrett placing his company on the auction block, the stars were perfectly aligned for the acquisition.
Due diligence was also required to get the capital needed, so Wright assigned the job to his A-team, led by CFO Holly Asher Beveridge. But, things did not go well initially. “We pulled together an LOI (letter of intent), and they chose someone else. Then it came back to us in November that they did not go with someone else and we had another shot at it,” says Beveridge.
“The economics and everything had to work first,” says Garrett of the deal. “And as I saw it unfolding, I came to recognize more and more that something perhaps historic is happening and certainly it would be a bonus if it happened.”
The purchase price (which was not disclosed) was also bandied back and forth. Once they settled on price, Wright had to contend with the banks. After talking with five institutions, he finally went with Bank of America, which had a pre-existing relationship with DI. “We met with them, they eyeballed the management team, and listened to Russ’ vision to gain an understanding of the plan to be executed,” says Beveridge.
Beveridge then developed a model for the bank. Although DI would be heavily leveraged, the company would be able to repay a considerable portion of the funds borrowed within 18 to 24 months based on increased revenues from the combined entity and the cost-control structure they would put in place. “Basically, I felt that they had done a thorough job of analyzing the transaction and that it was a go
od strategic fit, and the strategic analysis I thought was very thorough,” says Diane Zanetti, a senior vice president at Bank of America. “I also think that Russ and the management team had a good overview of what’s going on in the industry and were positioning themselves appropriately.”
THE FIRST GENERATION
Before founding DI, Dr. Wright practiced optometry for two decades in Columbus, Georgia, afer obtaining a degree from Ohio State University. The elder Wright also dabbled in politics, gaining a seat on the Columbus City Council. After coming to the attention of then-President Ronald Reagan, Dr. Wright was appointed to the U.S. Small Business Administration in 1981 as an associate administrator for minority small businesses. During his two-year stint, he helped allocate nearly $2 billion in contracts to minority businesses.
When he left the SBA, he tapped his federal contacts to launch his own venture. DI started out as an 8(a) company. (Operated by the SBA, the 8(a) Business Development Program is designed to provide assistance to socially and economically disadvantaged businesses.) “I always felt that as African Americans, if we really want to realize the American dream, some of us have to be entrepreneurs,” Dr. Wright says. “I’ve always been business-oriented, so I used my knowledge of federal programs and the relationships that I had developed to launch our