These people move fast: Wealthy families are speedy dealmakers, and they’re beating private equity at its own game

Michael Gottdenker glimpsed the future over a bowl of pasta earlier this year, and he liked what he saw.

The chief executive officer of Hargray Communications, a telecommunications company servicing South Carolina and Georgia, was having lunch with billionaire Jim Davis, founder of family office Redwood Capital Investments, and his adviser David Watson. Over the previous week, the two had taken a liking to Gottdenker’s company. “I didn’t think that family offices would make direct investments,” Gottdenker says, looking back, “or if they did, I thought that it would be a lot of work to get their interest.” And yet, between bites of Italian food at a restaurant in Columbia, Md., he came to realize that he could be speaking with the new owner of Hargray, which he’d helped turn into a half-a-billion-dollar company. He shared the story of an employee who’d worked her way up in the business—all the way from the company’s call center to management.

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