Jon North's path from lawyer to owning M&A firm

Jon North’s mid life crisis was a taste for investment banking, not Ferraris or iron man triathlons.

By ansaradaTue Sep 30 2014Mergers and acquisitions

Jon North: from lawyer to investment banker 

At 42 years of age Mr North, after months of contemplation, decided to leave the elite Australian law firm Allens to “try and climb the mountain” in investment banking.

Blue chip boutique advisors Gresham Partners offered Mr North a job advising companies on corporate finance and M&A. Within four years he was a managing director.

“Law is a profession driven by intellectual edge and banter,” says Mr North. “Banking is an environment where it doesn’t matter how smart you are, if you can’t talk to a client and generate revenue, you aren’t going to be successful.”

Still, the lawyer turned investment banker after six successful years at Gresham felt he had to do something different. Something that utilized his years working in M&A and corporate finances as well as his legal and financial skills. Mr North decided to start a boutique advisory firm.

From Gresham Partners to launching M&A advisory

J.B. North & Co was established on May 13, 2012. It has offices in Sydney and Perth. “I wanted to provide clients with strategic advice that was truly independent and not linked to success fees,” says Mr North over tea in downtown Sydney, next to offices that house the world’s biggest investment banks. “It is not always clear what success is at the start of an engagement,” he says. “Clients are wary of advisers that push an outcome in order to get paid.”

Mr North may not be as well known on the global M&A stage as New York’s Paul J. Taubman or the London-based brothers Michael and Yoel Zaoui, but his firm has been involved in two major Australian M&A transactions that have made headlines this year.

J.B. North & Co advised Australia’s ROC Oil on its $474 million sale to Chinese conglomerate Fosun International. The firm is also advising Chinese state owned investment group Guangdong Rising Assets Management Co on its $1.4 billion takeover offer for copper producer PanAust. “Over several years I have developed a deep working relationship with senior management and boards,” says Mr North. “I know their business and strategic objectives to the point where I am often considered part of the management team.”

Mr North cites ANZ’s chairman David Gonski, a former partner at law firm Freehills who cofounded the boutique advisory firm Wentworth Associates, as a role model. “I provide clients with clear strategic advice based on 25 years of corporate finance experience,” he says. “I’m passionate about what I do. I enjoy the adrenaline rush from being part of a team that is responsible for delivering an outcome for the client and its shareholders.”

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