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A look back at this year's top M&A deals

If anything was hotter than the market for workers over the last year, it was the market for buying and selling companies.
  • The past year saw deals involving many of Central Pennsylvania’s homegrown enterprises, from Hempt Bros. Inc. to Lancaster Fine Foods to Wolf Home Products
  • Private equity firms took bites of others, including Duck Donuts, C.J. Pony Parts and digital marketing agency WebFX.
  • The region’s largest businesses also were active. The Hershey Co. and Utz Brands snapped up three companies each as they looked to expand their product menus.
  • Turn to for a month-by-month recap

What's the big picture: A rebound in M&A was expected this year as business recovered from the shutdowns of 2020 and as private equity firms put their piles of cash to work.

  • Nonetheless, the rebound has been relatively impressive, judging by global numbers.
  • In a report that came out before the end of this year, professional services firm KPMG said the global deal volume had surpassed $5.1 trillion in 2021, up from $3.8 trillion in 2020 and just shy of the previous peak in 2015.

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Quick takes

WHO'S BUYING: Alera Group, an Illinois-based network of independent insurance and wealth management firms. The company has purchased Benefit Design Specialists, an employee-benefits firm in Upper Allen Township, Cumberland County. Terms of the deal were not disclosed but the leaders of Benefit Design Specialists are expected to stay in their current roles, according to Angela Christoforos, an Alera spokesperson.
  • Benefit Design Specialists was founded in 1986 by Tim Morrison. 
  • The deal is the second local acquisition this year for Alera. In May, it bought Bell Insurance, an insurance agency with offices in Chambersburg, Gettysburg, Hanover, Harrisburg and Shippensburg.
  • Alera's other holdings in Central PA include AIA Alera Group in Mechanicsburg; Zinn Insurance in Lebanon and Myerstown; and Ingroup Associates in Lancaster.
  • Alera also owns Camp Hill-based The Insurance Alliance Network, which manages personal and commercial insurance contracts for Alera.

WHAT SOLD: Summerdale Plaza, at 429 N. Enola Road, aka Route 11/15, in East Pennsboro Township, Cumberland County. The roughly 141,200 square-foot retail center just south of Interstate 81 sold for $17.25 million to First National Realty Partners, according to Matt Annibale, senior director of acquisitions for the New Jersey-based investment firm. The seller was Willner Realty & Development, based in Ardmore.
  • The retail center (shown below) is 85% leased, according to First National. Tenants include Rite Aid, AutoZone, Dollar Tree and Tractor Supply.

WHAT CHANGED HANDS AGAIN: The Think Loud building at 210 York St. near PeoplesBank Park. Kinsley Construction, which took over the building after the bankruptcy of its former owner, has sold it to a partnership called Invictus One. The sale price for the 53,000 square-foot building was $6 million, according to York County deed records.
  • According to an emailed statement by Kinsley Construction, the sale satisfies the roughly $15 million debt that the company had sued to collect from the former owners, 120 York LLC, whose members include members of the rock band Live.
  • The lawsuit was filed in September 2020; 120 York filed bankruptcy in April of this year.
  • “After several months of property negotiations, we are pleased to have reached an amicable resolution in the sale of 210 York St.," wrote Kinsley.
  • The building, a former printing plant, has been home to United Fiber & Data, a fiber optic provider that has been at the center of a separate legal battle

Who's Invictus: A partnership incorporated in Delaware in October, according to Delaware records. No contact information was available.

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Compiled and written by Joel Berg

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