In early 2012, six MBA candidates at the University of Richmond created a team to compete in the first-ever Richmond ACG Cup, a mergers and acquisitions (M&A) case competition among leading business schools in Virginia. The team of Aaron Barnes, Kyle Benusa, Sam Gottwald, Adam Hahn, Matt Hannay and John Reed represented The Richmond MBA against other MBA programs in the final round, which was judged by professionals from the world of banking and finance. Ultimately, the team took home first place in the state along with $2,500 in prize money through their exceptional effort and perseverance. 

Recalling their deep dedication prior to and during the competition, Benusa reminisced, “Between work, classes and the Cup, we had each worked over a hundred hours that past week. We were exhausted. Receiving the first place standing was confirmation that our work had been well-directed.”

Reed described the feeling as “the satisfaction that comes with knowing we put forth our best effort and succeeded in meeting the expectations of some of the most respected M&A professionals in Virginia.”

Two years later, the teammates remain close. Each has grown substantially in his career. Reed was promoted to the sourcing manager of raw materials at MeadWestvaco (MWV) Corp., helping to source raw materials used in MWV’s products. Hannay now works as an investment analyst at Markel Corp., where his responsibilities include portfolio analytics and corporate credit research. Today, Hahn works in the Equity Originations Group at BB&T Capital Markets Inc., advising companies as they prepare for their IPOs and subsequent capital raises helping execute the transactions when appropriate.

Barnes moved into an internal audit role at Genworth Financial where he has significant visibility with senior leaders across the company. Gottwald is vice president at VenGott LLC, managing the acquisition process including investment analysis, contract negotiations and integration of small company buyouts into VenGott’s private equity portfolio, as well as monitoring the performance of the company’s alternative assets portfolio. Benusa joined Gottwald at VenGott, which was looking to broaden its investment profile to include private, control-oriented investments. He is gaining exposure to due diligence, financial analysis and management of two operating companies, calling his experience a “perfect fit.”

Since the competition, the team members have found they are moving closer to their professional goals. Barnes who has an investment banking background, shared, “ACG rekindled my passion for M&A. I realized I wanted to be a chief strategy officer for a company one day and felt that the role with Genworth, coupled with my M&A background, put me on the right path.”

Some of their goals evolved as a result of the competition. Benusa revealed, “The Richmond MBA and the Cup provided me exposure to M&A; it piqued my interest and set me on my current path. For that I’m forever grateful.”

According to Hahn, the competition also served to “tie together all of the skills we were already refining in the MBA program. I find myself using things I learned from my teammates almost every day at work.” 

Reed shared, “The Richmond MBA helped to provide a foundation for my career in business and teach me the fundamentals that I need to tackle any problem I would face in my career. I would put my experience in the ACG Cup 2012 as the number one experience during my time at The Richmond MBA. I was able to apply almost all of the skills learned from the program; I learned a tremendous amount of finance and M&A in the process, and I also built some strong friendships that exist to this day.” 

Hannay concluded with a resonant thought. “The biggest benefit of The Richmond MBA is the network of fellow graduates I developed during the program and have maintained since. Not only did we work hard together, but many long-lasting friendships were formed.”