Insight on Finding the Ideal International Business Partner with Julie Comer
Major international investments and acquisitions are made with great care and preparation. The money passing amongst entities are equal to that of the GDP of many countries, which means that the facilitation of these deals are left in the hands and minds of the most skilled and proficient of experts; those like Julie Comer. This native daughter of France has travelled to many parts of the world in her career but has been primarily residing in Paris and New York City. Preferring boutique consulting firms to larger (and more slowly moving) firms, Ms. Comer has leveraged her impressive professional attributes to achieve the goals of top entrepreneurial clients with a market capitalization of $10 billion. With trillions of dollars worth of opportunities on the table, finding the ideal partner for such a situation can only be entrusted to someone as proficient and seemingly prescient as Julie Comer. As a member of Lazare Consulting, Ms. Comer was at the center of China’s powerhouse Baozun acquiring Full Jet (founded by another impressive French woman) which was one of the most impactful deals of China’s ever expanding e-commerce direction.
Full Jet founder and CEO Sandrine Zerbib established her company as a major success story in China. The Shanghai based marketing-fueled Ecommerce/TP specialized in helping premium brands succeed in China, leveraging all major social/digital commerce platforms, including Tmall, JD.com, and WeChat. Sandrine turned to Lazare Consulting to help her find the right strategic partner to strengthen her existing business and accelerate her company’s growth. As part of a trio at Lazare on this project, Ms. Comer helped to focus Full Jet’s business on services with a greater value-added in order to cultivate and maximize growth for a more appealing position in the market. Lazare engaged nearly a hundred potential partners with a self-created “Go to Maket” strategy and share with them a confidential memorandum/teaser. This led to a great deal of engagement and LOIs from three top tier buyers. With Baozun displaying eagerness, Julie piloted the due diligence phase with financial and tax advisors at Baozun; a substantial feat considering it necessitated completion within a single month with the approaching Chinese New Year celebration/holiday. A successful agreement was completed with the required legal representation and contracts.
Though the deal was completed to the satisfaction of both parties, it must be asked, “Why were these the best suited partners and how was this conclusion arrived at?” Among the most essential factors according to Ms. Comer was that both companies would accelerate their growth as a result of this partnership. She explains, “Full Jet had strong expertise in helping premium and luxury brands onboard and grow in China and, more precisely, on the e-commerce platforms. Being acquired by Baozun would allow Full jet to leverage Baozun’s deep luxury insights and solid IT and data infrastructure. Both firms shared a vision regarding how they could help bring more international premium and luxury brand e-commerce to the next level in China. Baozun showed real pragmatism and efficiency during the structuring of the deal and the valuation.” Even among motivated parties, some factors fall into the unforeseeable category. Julie relates how this potential pitfall can be utilized in positive ways. She describes, “The first challenge came with COVID. In early 2020, we had interesting discussions with many advertising holding companies that showed interest in Full Jet. When COVID surged, listed companies had to preserve their cash and could not make any significant investments. When we launch the process, we started focusing mainly on companies outside China as we thought Full Jet could bring even more value to an international communication group that wanted to grow in China. Having to deal with COVID and the Chinese e-commerce boom made us rethink our plan and open the door to conversation with Chinese companies, which ended up being the perfect partner for Full Jet.” Limitations and creativity prove to be powerful allies when wielded by those most knowledgeable. Julie Comer reflects on the challenges of making such a deal during a globally historic time stating, “It’s immensely satisfying what we achieved. When we started the process, the Full Jet CEO expressed some reservations regarding getting a decent valuation for a company that pivoted its business model several times over the previous years, and we finally sold the company at a very good multiple (12.5x EBITDA).”