panel topic

11:00 am - 11:45 am Private Equity Panel

Tuesday, June 11, 2024
11:00 am - 11:45 am 
Minneapolis Marriott City Center

The 2024 M&A Market: Discussion of Trends & Outlook

Join our panel of experienced leaders as they discuss current trends in the M&A and Private Equity industries. They will provide insights and anecdotes on deal volume, valuation, inflation, deal structuring, availability of leverage, and more.

Moderator: Sean Kearney, Fredrikson


  • Eric Nicholson, Northborne Partners
  • David Santoni, Audax Group
  • Brian Schneider, Northstar Capital
  • Steve Soderling, Tonka Bay
  • Hannah Stone Craven, Stone-Goff Partners

About the moderator and panelists:


Sean Kearney
Shareholder – Fredrikson
Sean Kearney is Co-Chair of the firm’s Private Equity Group. He has served as lead counsel on hundreds of merger and acquisition transactions in a wide variety of industries. His practice primarily focuses on representing private equity funds, including both national and regional sponsors. He also represents strategic buyers, entrepreneurial sellers, and management teams on mergers and acquisitions transactions. Sean is the past Co-Chair of the Mergers & Acquisitions Group.


Eric Nicholson
Managing Director – Northborne Partners
Eric Nicholson is a Managing Director of Northborne Partners. Eric has over three decades of experience as an M&A advisor to private and public companies, private equity investors, and entrepreneurs. Before joining Northborne, Eric was a senior investment banker at Piper Jaffray and a partner at Greene Holcomb & Fisher, a national investment banking boutique. After BMO acquired GHF, Eric served as Head of BMO Middle Market M&A. Eric started his career as a corporate attorney at Dorsey & Whitney in Minneapolis. Eric received a JD from the University of Minnesota Law School and a BA from Carleton College.



David Santoni
Managing Director, Business Development – Audax Group
David is a Managing Director of Business Development for Audax Private Equity, based in Boston. Prior to joining Audax in 2024, David was a Managing Director at Hennepin Partners and, before that, spent nearly 20 years in the same capacity at Lazard Middle Market and its predecessor firm Goldsmith Agio Helms, where he served as Head of Middle Market Financial Sponsor Coverage. David also spent time as a partner at Prestwick Partners and began his career as an associate at law firms Thompson Hine LLP and Skadden Arps. David received a B.A. in math from the University of St. Thomas and a J.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Law.


Brian Schneider
Managing Partner – Northstar Capital
Brian is a Managing Partner of Northstar Capital. Brian has broad experience as a private equity investor encompassing financial management, transaction due diligence, and fund administration. He is responsible for all aspects of investment management at Northstar and coordinates investor relations, investment origination, portfolio management, and administration of the General Partner. Previously Brian was with Norwest Bank (Wells Fargo & Company) in operations and lending functions. Brian received a B.A in Business and Economics from the University of Minnesota at Morris and an M.B.A. from the University of Minnesota. Brian enjoys all sports including running, coaching, golf, and snow sports.


Steve Soderling
Partner – Tonka Bay
Steve joined Tonka Bay in 2005, after spending seven years on the buyout team of Norwest Equity Partners. Steve is a member of the Investment Committee and has been involved in over 30 partner company investments and is actively involved in overall investment strategy and portfolio construction.  At Norwest, he was involved in originating and closing management buyouts and growth equity investments. He began his career with the Arthur Andersen economic and financial consulting group in the Chicago and Minneapolis offices.



Hannah Stone Craven
Managing Partner – Stone-Goff Partners
Hannah Stone Craven co-founded Stone-Goff Partners (SGP) in 2010. SGP is a lower middle market private equity firm investing in technology-driven business-to-business service companies focused on the growing knowledge economy.  SGP is currently investing out of Fund IV. Previously, she was a partner with Sandler Capital Management, a sector-focused private equity firm targeting media, marketing services, and information companies. Hannah earned a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. She also currently serves as a board member of Carrols Restaurant Group Inc. (NASDAQ: TAST).

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