Paul Armson PHOTO

The lowdown on the BACK2Y conference

BACK2Y – literally, “Back to why [you do it]”, i.e advise clients – returns this year after its organiser Paul Armson’s alternative conference of the same name launched in 2014.

Last year, a room at the Birmingham Hilton Metropole just about held 198 for the one day event. This year, in response to demand, Armson (pictured) has booked more space at the city’s International Convention Centre, upped the number of speakers and is hopeful of 350-plus attendees.

The format of adviser conferences tends to be predictable: the latest practical information and opinions are imparted, mainly from providers, together with rehashed gripes and with a couple of motivational speakers thrown in.

The ‘industry’ wants advisers to give clients what it wants – product distribution. It’s time to wake up!

BACK2Y was an altogether much more emotive event.

The allure, according to those who went, was the promise of a space to share ideas at what the participants consider to be the vanguard of financial advice.

Speakers spoke evangelically of epiphanies turning them away from transactional advice, the practice of selling products to meet clients’ perceived needs so ostracised by today’s financial planning frontline.

‘Product’ is a dirty word at BACK2Y, and product providers, with their stands offering free stuffed animals and mugs in exchange for five minutes bending your ear about their latest ‘solution’, are banned.

The lack of corporate sponsorship is reflected in the price, with currently available tickets for this year’s one day event ranging from £297 to £347.

The conference does sell something though – professional elitism.

“Most advisers won’t get BACK2Y. But that’s OK. It only takes a few to start a revolution,” Armson said.

A Yacht & Two Pauls

Armson is a part-time financial adviser and CEO and founder of Inspiring Advisers, a coaching programme in which he teaches advisers “how to really succeed as a lifestyle financial planner”.

BACK2Y is an extension of the philosophy Armson preaches in his adviser training company.

“Inspiring Advisers can show you how to WOW! your clients in return for vastly increased fee income – and have a lot of fun in the process,” according to its website.

Mrs Miggins seeking advice on what to do with a pension pot of £50,000 – low, but sadly above the national average – probably isn’t going to be able to afford that vastly increased fee, so presumably only advisers with a large proportion of pretty wealthy clients need apply.

Not a criticism, but a reality.

Armson himself ‘semi-retired’ in 2005 at the age of 45 and split his time between advising clients and sailing “Spellbound”, his 60 foot Oyster yacht, around the world.

In between that he spent three years working alongside Prestwood Group’s Paul Etheridge, founder of the Institute of Financial Planning and darling of those who consider themselves to be the more progressive element of the advice world.

The two created the much lauded cash-flow modelling tool Truth Financial Planning Software.

No Real Value

Armson’s aim with BACK2Y is to marry up acting in the best interests of clients with acheiving professional nirvana for advisers.

“I wanted to create an event to bring together advisers who also believe that it’s all about the client and helping them get what they want,” Armson said of BACK2Y.

“It’s called BACK2Y because it helps take advisers back to what we should be doing for clients – providing peace of mind, financial security, helping clients live life to the full, helping them get and keep their desired lifestyle.

“That’s what proper financial planning is all about. And that is where the value is. It has nothing to do with this product is better than that product.”

Armson draws his battle lines on these terms; there is “no real value” in providing clients a product or investment based service.

“What clients really want to know is: ‘in return for your fees how are you going to make my life better?'” he said. That is probably a fair assessment of any exchange of hard-earned money for goods and services.

Armson’s point is that financial services has been lacking in this respect.

“The ‘industry’ wants advisers to give clients what it wants – product distribution. It’s time to wake up! Advisers are being paid by the client, so we have to give clients what they want – which isn’t products or investments.

“That’s why there are no product providers at BACK2Y. Just successful practitioners of proper financial planning, some of the best in the UK, if not the world, sharing their experiences, best tips and techniques and – just as important – sharing inspiration to help other advisers get their focus back on what really matters.”

The demise of commission brought on by the RDR shifted the power dynamic from advisers relying on providers for an income, to the other way around.

BACK2Y is a product (pun intended) of that change.

It’s “vibe” might not be to every advisers’ taste, but beneath all that, the fundamental premise of a conference delivered by advisers, for advisers, focused on financial planning, has to be applauded.

If you would like to find out more information about the BACK2Y conference, please visit: http://www.back2y.co.uk/

Multisport PHOTO

14 Pro Athletes Turned Successful Entrepreneurs

In today’s sports-crazed world, athletes like Lebron James and Tony Hawk have quickly become household names. But it’s not just their sport that’s making them famous.

Athletes are becoming known for their entrepreneurship and savvy business deals—earning more off the playing field than on. From personalized apparel to multimillion dollar investment companies, see why these athletes truly “score” in the business world.

14. Oscar De La Hoya

Sports: By age 28, boxing’s “Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya had won five titles in varying weight classes, making him the youngest boxer ever to win five world titles. He has a career total of 10 championship belts and was a 1992 Olympic gold medal winner. He has generated $612 million in revenue for his 18 pay-per-view fights.

Business: De La Hoya is the top pay-per-view earner in ring history, bringing in more than $600 million. In 2000, he released Grammy-nominated music album “Oscar” in both English and Spanish.

De La Hoya’s management company, Golden Boy Promotions, consists of more than 40 fighters and numerous businesses, generating more than $100 million annually. De La Hoya personally owns more than 50 percent of the company.

13. Michael Jordan

Sports: Arguably the best basketball player known to the game, Michael Jordan changed the way basketball is viewed. He played for the Chicago Bulls and later for the Washington Wizards, totaling more than $90 million in earnings as a player salary.

Business: Currently, he owns the Charlotte Bobcats (which he bought for roughly $175 million) and is the face of Nike’s Air Jordan sneakers. Other endorsements include Gatorade, Wheaties, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Chevrolet, Rayovac and Hanes. His estimated worth was more than $500 million before his divorce in 2006.

12. Venus Williams

Sports: Currently ranked No. 3 in the world in singles and No. 2 in doubles, Venus Williams is a professional tennis player who has redefined women’s tennis. She pulled in $15.5 million from playing this year, according to Forbes.

Business: Williams is currently CEO of her interior design firm “V Starr Interiors”. She also launched her own fashion line in 2007. She is part owner of the Miami Dolphins with sister Serena. In 2001, she signed a five-year endorsement contract with Reebok International for $40 million. Her new book “Come to Win” was No. 5 on the New York Times Best Seller list. She was ranked number 83 on Forbes’ 2010 Celebrity Top 100 list.

11. Tony Hawk

Sports: Sponsored by the age of 12 and pro at 14, Tony Hawk changed the face of the skateboarding world. Over the next 17 years, he entered more than 100 pro contests, winning 73 of them and placing second in 19. In 1999, Tony Hawk landed the first-ever “900” at the X games—two and a half spins mid air! In total, Hawk invented more than 80 tricks.

Business: Hawk is the owner of Birdhouse, one of the largest skateboarding companies in the world, and he started his own clothing line, aptly named “Hawk Clothing.” He has deals with Activision, Six Flags, Kohl’s, Infospace, Adio shoes, Jeep and Sirius Satellite Radio.

In conjunction with Activision, Hawk created Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater Video game in 1999, which quickly became a best seller, now making him the No. 1 action-sports video game franchise. Tony continues to release video games for all gaming systems. He also released an autobiography, which was a New York Times bestseller. Hawk grossed $12 million in 2008 alone, according to Forbes.

10. John Elway

Sports: Although originally drafted to the Baltimore Colts, John Elway played for the Denver Broncos. His initial contract with the Broncos was for a 6 year, $12.7 million contract. He is best known for his 15-play, 98-yard offensive series in the AFC Championship game, aptly known as “The Drive.” He helped lead the Broncos to five Super Bowl appearances and two wins.

Business: Since retirement, he has owned several businesses and writes an NFL blog. He also founded The Elway Foundation, a non-profit organization for the prevention of child abuse. He is also the owner of two restaurants and once owned five car dealerships in the Denver area. He sold them to AutoNation in 1997 for $82.5 million. He is still in the car dealership business.

9. LeBron James

Sports: Drafted directly out of high school to the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James is said to show talent on the same level as Michael Jordan. Earning $19 million in his first 4 years with the Cavs, James recently signed with the Miami Heat for a little less than $16 million.

Business: Before James even signed with the Cavs, Nike signed him to a seven year, $90 million contract. When Nike released his first shoe, Air Zoom Generation, it sold 72,000 pairs at $110 in its first month.

He also owns his own marketing agency, known as LRMR, which secured endorsements with Nike, Sprite, Glacéau, Bubblicious, and Upper Deck. In 2010 alone, James totaled $30 million in endorsements.

8. George Foreman

Sports: This heavyweight champion took the boxing world by storm, with his most notable fight “Rumble in the Jungle” against Muhammad Ali for the world heavyweight title in Zaire, Africa. Although he lost the fight, he pulled in more than $5 million for the fight alone. He won the gold medal in the 1968 Olympic Games for the United States. He was undefeated in 40 straight fights.

Business: Over 100 million George Foreman Grills have been sold worldwide. Foreman sold the marketing rights to his grills in 1999 for $137 million—more than what he ever made in his career as a boxer. His other business ventures include a clothing line and a cleaning product line.

7. Dave Bing

Sports: This seven-time all-star is named one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players. Starting out with the Detroit Pistons, over nine seasons Bing negotiated his contract from $15,000 up to $450,000.

Later, he played two seasons for the Washington Bullets and ended his basketball career as a Boston Celtic. He was the sixth rookie in NBA history to top 1,600 points and held a record of 18,372 points for his career total.

Business: In 1980, Bing launched Big Steel in Detroit. Within a decade, his steel mill was pulling in $61 million in annual sales, making Big Steel the 10th largest African American-owned industrial company in the nation. He later founded Superb Manufacturing, a $28 million-per-year metal stamping company. As chairman of Bing Group, an automotive supplier, he has sales of over $200 million.

6. Roger Staubach

Sports: Staubach was the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys from 1969 to 1979. In his last year playing, he had an 83.4 passing rating, which was the best mark by an NFL passer at that time. He was an all-NFC choice five times and was selected to play in six Pro Bowls.

Business: In 1997, Staubach founded real estate firm the Staubach Company. He has served as CEO since 1982. The firm had 60 offices in the US, Canada and Mexico, until recently bought by Jones Lang Lasalle for $613 million.

5. Vinnie Johnson

Sports: Seen as one of the greatest “sixth men” in basketball history, Vinnie Johnson helped lead the Detroit Pistons to numerous NBA victories. He is best known for sinking the winning shot in the 1990 NBA finals against Portland with 00.7 seconds left in the game. That same year, he held out on resigning his contract until he signed for $3.2 million in a two year agreement.

Business: After retirement, Johnson founded Piston Automotive. The company now has more than 200 employees and sales of over $85 million.

4. Cal Ripken Jr

Sports: This Baltimore Oriole shortstop is best known for breaking Lou Gehrig’s record of consecutive games played—totaling 2,632 games. He is one of eight players in history to achieve 400 home runs and 3,000 hits. In 1992, he signed a five-year, $30.5 million contract to continue playing for the Orioles.

Business: As chairman and CEO of Ripken Baseball, Inc., Ripken helped build a baseball complex in his hometown of Aberdeen, Maryland. He owns the Augusta GreenJackets (the Class A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants) and the Charlotte Stone Crabs (the class A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays). A best-selling author, Ripken also has been the spokesperson for Energizer, Holiday Inn, Rinnai and State Farm Insurance.

3. Chris Webber

Sports: As a member of the Golden State Warriors, Chris Webber became the first NBA rookie to score more than 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists, 150 blocks and 75 steals. He is a five-time NBA All Star.

Webber remains the only sixth player in history to average more than 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. When he signed his contract again with the Sacramento Kings in for $123 million in 2001, his contract made him the second highest paid player in NBA history.

Business: Webber is active in investment companies representing basketball and football players, real estate and film projects. He had endorsement deals with Coca-Cola, EA Sports, Sony Playstation, ESPN the Magazine, Fila, Nike, Pepsi, Carl’s Jr., THQ Wireless and New Era.

He currently owns a real estate development company, Maktub LLC, which primarily focuses on redevelopment efforts in Chicago. He also opened his own restaurant in Sacramento, Calif., aptly named Center Court with C-Webb. He is also a music producer and is featured on numerous hip hop tracks.

2. Wayne Gretzky

Sports: Considered one of the greatest hockey players ever, Wayne Gretzky holds or shares 61 NHL records—40 for the regular season, 15 for the Stanley Cup playoffs and six for the NHL all star game. He was paid more than $40 million from 1989 to 1999.

Business: Gretzky bought the Hull Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for $175,000 CA, and sold it seven years later for $550,000 CA. In 1992, Gretzky partnered with Bruce McNall in an investment to buy a rare Honus Wagner T206 cigarette card for $500,000 US. It most recently sold for $2.8 million US. He also owns his own restaurant, aptly named Wayne Gretzky’s Restaurant, as well as his own winery. Forbes estimates he earned $93.8 mil between 1990 and 1998.

1. Magic Johnson

Sports: At 6-feet-9-inches, Earvin “Magic” Johnson was the tallest point guard in league history. His 13-year NBA career was spent entirely with the L.A. Lakers. In 1984, Johnson signed a 25-year, $25 million contract with the L.A. Lakers.

Business: Magic runs Magic Enterprises, a chain of movie theaters. The Magic Johnson Foundation has awarded more than $1.1 million to community organizations that focus on HIV/AIDS prevention. He is also known for bringing big business to urban commercial areas. He has partnerships with Starbucks, T.G.I. Fridays and AMC Theatres.

Pensions News – September 2014: budget reforms; legislation; public service pension schemes; and more

Welcome to the latest edition of Pensions News, which aims to help employers and trustees keep up to date with all the latest developments in pensions legislation, guidance and case law. This edition of Pensions News summarises the key developments from September 2014.

In This Issue:

Budget reforms: the announcement that the 55 per cent death benefits tax charge on pension funds held in a drawdown product at death or uncrystallised after age 75 will be abolished in April 2015.
The Pensions Regulator: information on new questions in the DB scheme return; and the publication of the staff determinations procedure that applies to cases where a decision is made by the executive arm of the regulator.
DWP: an announcement about the removal of the NEST restrictions, which also gives some indication on the possible timescale for the introduction of the system for automatic transfers.
Legislation: the coming into force of certain provisions of the Pensions Act 2014; the progress of the Pension Schemes Bill through Parliament and the publication of notices of amendments; and amendments to the draft updated IORP Directive.
HMRC: the coming into force of a statutory requirement for scheme administrators to be fit and proper for the role and the publication of HMRC guidance about this requirement; and the latest Pension Schemes Services newsletter.
Public service pension schemes: a policy note about the NHS pension scheme and Fair Deal; and an update to the directions on valuations and the employer cost cap.
Other news: the annual review of the Pensions Advisory Service; and the Pension Protection Fund’s latest Technical News publication.

CLAYTON UTZ

Advisory Excellence Award for Darling Harbour Live precinct project

The circa $1 billion Darling Harbour Live precinct project, on which Clayton Utz is the primary legal adviser, has won the Advisory Excellence Award at the 2014 National Infrastructure Awards convened by Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA).

With construction expected to be completed in 2016, the Darling Harbour Live precinct project will provide Sydney with world-class facilities for a diverse range of convention, exhibition and entertainment events. Clayton Utz was appointed in August 2011 as primary legal advisers to Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority (SFHA) and then to Infrastructure NSW (INSW), on the project.

The award judging panel acknowledged the major and complementary outcomes the projects advisers had secured for the State and for the people of NSW, through smart structuring and the use of interactive and competitive bidding. Other advisers on the project are KPMG (Financial Adviser to the State), Evans & Peck (Transaction Adviser to the State), Capella Capital (Financial Adviser to Darling Harbour Live) and Herbert Smith Freehills (Legal Adviser to Darling Harbour Live).

This is the latest accolade for the Darling Harbour Live precinct project, which was also named Asia-Pacific PPP Deal of the Year at the 2013 Project Finance International (PFI) Awards.

IPA’s National Infrastructure Awards celebrate and acknowledge the innovation and excellence of Australia’s public and private sectors in the delivery of infrastructure.

Bendigo Hospital Project, on which Clayton Utz is legal adviser to the Department of Health (Victoria), was also a finalist for the Advisory Excellence Award.

Rugby PHOTO

Why do rugby players make such good business people?

Former New Zealand All-Black Sean Fitzpatrick and ex-England rugby coach Sir Clive Woodward explain why rugby and business go so well together.

George Gregan, Australia’s talismanic former scrum half, is one of the country’s most successful rugby union players. His international career spanned 13 years and saw him win 139 caps. Only two people have represented their countries more in the history of rugby – New Zealand’s Richie McCaw and Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll.

Yet just five years into his international career and at the peak of his powers – the same year, in fact, that Australia won the Rugby World Cup – Gregan started his own business: GG’s Espresso shop, based in Sydney’s bustling business district.

To a football fan this might sound like an odd move, a bit like David Beckham drawing up a business plan for a greasy spoon cafe. But there lies, in a nutshell, one of the major differences between a game in which you throw the ball and one in which you kick it.

Rugby union went professional in 1995, and although the amount of money pumped into the sport has steadily increased, players’ wages are still small compared to that of football.

All Black Dan Carter will become rugby’s highest-paid player after the World Cup, yet even on his new wages it would take him more than 20 years to amass the annual salary of Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo also enjoys bonuses and endorsements that take his earnings beyond £50 million a year – exactly 100 times more than the fourth highest-paid rugby player, Sam Burgess.

Rugby’s historical frugality is a major reason for its close and practical ties to business, says Sean Fitzpatrick, who recently spoke at Grant Thornton’s Inspiring Business event, part of a series dedicated to stimulating ideas among business audiences.

Sean Fitzpatrick

– New Zealand All Black: 1986-1997
– Captain 51 times
– World Cup winner: 1987
– Front Row Group director: 2010

Sean is a World Cup-winning All Black with 92 caps to his name, having captained the side a one-time record of 51 times, a figure only recently bettered by Richie McCaw.

“Unlike footballers, most rugby players will have worked. We know that when we finish, we won’t have enough money to lie on the beach,” he explains during an interview with Strategies for growth ahead of his presentation. “A rugby player has to work with people and adapt to different situations; footballers don’t learn those skills because they don’t have to.”

It’s a fact drawn out in the experience of Sir Clive Woodward, the former England coach who steered the team to the 2003 Rugby World Cup title. During the early 1980s he combined his time working as an executive for the technology company Xerox with playing rugby 21 times for England.

Sir Clive Woodward

– England coach: 1997-2004
– Rugby World Cup winner: 2003
– Southampton FC: 2005
– British Olympic Association director: 2006-2012

“From a coaching point of view the business experience has been fantastic; as a player it effectively got in the way because it encroached on training time,” says Sir Clive, who delivered a presentation on world-class performance at Grant Thornton’s Inspiring Business event.

“When I became a coach all the lessons I learned in business became priceless. When I coached England it certainly helped that the players knew I had been in their shoes and had played for my country, but the biggest thing that helped me was 18 years in business,” he adds, referring not only to his days as a salesman and team leader with Xerox but also his stewardship of a small business that at one time employed nine people.

Coaching a team and heading up a business require the same leadership traits, according to Sir Clive. The key is not the team, but the dynamics between the individuals within it.

“Sometimes you can go over the top on ‘the team’. We lost the World Cup in 1999, and we had many of the same players and the same coach as we did in 2003. We were a lot better but fundamentally we were the same people.

“Anyone who plays rugby is likely to be pretty motivated. The secret to a great team is allowing those talented individuals to really flourish in a collaborative environment. You cater to every different personality because everyone is different.”

For Sean, culture is the most important ingredient in a winning formula. It’s no coincidence, he says, that the All Blacks have experienced sustained international success over the course of 100 years, despite the country having a population of just 4.6 million.

“They say that being captain of the All Blacks is more important than being the prime minister. It’s a huge responsibility and it takes three or four years to get used to it. It is the fear of failure but as you get older you learn to live with the fear. I loved being an All Black but the pressure was immense,” says Sean.

“The culture is the most important thing in a business, too – and it comes from the top. How you act towards people defines how they act towards each other. Make people want to work with you. Respect needs to happen up and down the organisation.”

The relationship between business and rugby is born of necessity, but the two are not uncomfortable bedfellows. Former players regularly make a smooth transition to employment or enterprise and thrive in a competitive environment that is different but the same.

George Gregan is just one example of this. His coffee shop now has 16 outlets. At the last count it had a turnover of £5 million and employs nearly 280 people.

“In sport you need drive and determination, and you have to work hard,” says Sir Clive. “When players enter the business world they tend to take those traits with them and they tend to be successful.

“It’s a way of getting over the disappointment of not playing any more. Gregan is a good example of someone who has channelled that and got the job done.”

Mergers and Acquisitions – The 10 Biggest Deals of 2013

Mergers and acquisitions never reached the fizzy levels experts predicted, but 2013 is still shaping up to be the best year for U.S. deal activity in five years.

Although most mergers and acquisitions ultimately fail to create value for shareholders down the road, it’s hard to say that the economy or markets are truly healthy without them — and that’s not just because investment bankers and corporate law firms need to get paid.

Companies don’t do much wheeling and dealing when markets and the economy are in a funk. A pickup in mergers and acquisitions activity is a sign of confidence — and animal spirits and investor psychology are as critical as anything to ensuring better times ahead.

Despite notching one of the biggest mergers and acquisitions on record, 2013 was hardly a whirlwind of deal activity, but it did pick up smartly.

U.S. mergers and acquisitions volume totaled $865.1 billion in the first nine months of 2013, according to Dealogic. That’s a 39% increase over the same period a year ago — and the highest nine-month total since 2008.

Some deals made huge splashes, while other passed by more quietly, but all of them contributed to the recovery in M&A. For the top 10 mergers acquisitions of 2013, according to FactSet, read on:

#10: Applied Materials (AMAT) Buys Tokyo Electron (TOELY)
Transaction Value: $10 billion

Applied Materials (AMAT) and Tokyo Electron (TOELY) are two of the biggest and most important suppliers to the semiconductor industry in the world, making the machines and technology that turns silicon wafers into computer chips.

Merging the No.1 and No. 3 manufacturers in the industry will create a giant with a market cap of about $30 billion, but more than anything, it’s a defensive move. Technical and financial pressures are squeezing margins and profits in an already mature industry.

Now that the two biggest players have tied the knot, we can expect even more mergers and acquisitions in this sector in 2014.

#9: Spectra Energy Partners (SEP) Buys Spectra Energy Corp.’s (SE) U.S. Transmission, Storage & Liquids Assets
Transaction Value: $9.8 billion

Income investors who love master limited partnerships were licking their chops when this deal was announced. Spectra Energy Partners’ (SEP) acquisition of assets from Spectra Energy Corp. (SE) transforms it into one of the largest fee-based MLPs in the country.

The deal is supposed to offer about $8 billion in organic growth potential by the end of the decade, and it diversifies SEP’s portfolio of energy, storage and transmission revenues.

Best of all for income seekers, SEP expects its annual distribution growth to hit 9% from now until 2015.

#8: American Airlines (AAMRQ) Buys US Airways (LCC)
Transaction Value: $11 billion

US Airways (LCC) had long been looking for a merger partner, but probably didn’t imagine it would find a deal quite like this. AMR Corp. (AAMRQ) — parent of American Airlines — emerged from bankruptcy with a deal in place to merge with US Airways, creating the world’s largest airline in the process.

When American Airlines filed for bankruptcy protection at the end of 2011, it knew that coming out of the process as a standalone company was a losing proposition. Enter US Airways — always a bridesmaid in the consolidation-crazy airline industry.

The deal gives American and US Airways a chance to compete against United Continental Holdings (UAL) and Delta Air Lines (DAL) — and a chance for American to pay back its creditors.

#7: Thermo Fisher Scientific (TMO) Buys Life Technologies (LIFE)
Transaction Value: $13 billion

There were a lot of mergers and acquisitions in the healthcare industry this year — especially in the various specialty subsectors — and no deal was bigger than this.

Thermo Fisher Scientific (TMO), the world’s largest maker of scientific and lab equipment, struck an agreement to buy genetic sequencing company Life Technologies (LIFE). The tie-up vaults Thermo into a prime position in the promising new field of personalized medicine.

Life Technologies is a huge prize because of the dramatic strides it’s making it cutting the time and costs for sequencing human DNA, which allows for the development of highly personal gene-based diagnostic tests and therapies.

#6: Liberty Global (LBTYA) Buys Virgin Media
Transaction Value: $16 billion

This deal didn’t make much of a splash on this side of the pond, but billionaire John Malone’s international cable business sure made waves in the U.K.’s telecom and cable market.

Liberty Global’s (LBTYA) deal to buy U.K. cable-TV and broadband provider Virgin Media created a much stronger rival to No. 1 British Sky Broadcasting.

And it’s already paying off, at least in terms of share-price performance. LBTYA is up 36% for the year-to-date, and up 17% since the Virgin Media deal closed in June.

#5: Publicis Groupe (PUBGY) Buys Omnicom Group (OMC)
Transaction Value: $17 billion

It was a complete and total shock when bitter rivals Publicis (PUBGY) and Omnicom (OMC) agreed to a so-called merger of equals to create the largest advertising agency holding company in the world.

Once the deal closes, the new company will be worth about $35 billion and have roughly $23 billion in annual revenue — and it will leave a vastly changed industry landscape.

Indeed, now that Omnicom and Publicis are hooking up, the Big Four players will become the Big Three, leaving just Omnicom-Publicis, WPP (WPPGY) and Interpublic Group (IPG).

#4: Comcast (CMCSA) Buys NBCUniversal Media from General Electric (GE)
Transaction Value: $17 billion

The sitcom 30 Rock sure had a lot of fun with this drawn-out deal — and it sure took long enough — but General Electric (GE) finally sold its media company to Kabletown, er, Comcast (CMCSA).

The storied NBC network and other entertainment properties are probably a better fit for a cable company than a conglomerate that makes everything from toaster ovens to turbine engines. But it remains to be seen whether NBCU has finally found a good home.

One thing that’s not in doubt is what the deal has done for CMCSA stock price. Comcast stock is up a market-beating 36% for the year-to-date.

#3: Michael Dell and Private Equity Firm Silverlake Buy Dell
Transaction Value: $25 billion

If you needed any evidence that mobile tech is upending the world, look no farther than Dell going private. Once the largest manufacturer of PCs on the planet, Dell just didn’t make much sense as a publicly traded company anymore. On an unadjusted basis, Dell stock used to top $170 a share — but that was a long time ago. When founder Michael Dell and his private equity partners finally bought the company out — something Dell had been pursuing since February — they paid total consideration of just $13.88 a share.

When all was said and done (and after adjusting for splits and dividends), Dell sold at a 75% discount to its all-time high.

#2: Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) and 3G Partners Buy H.J. Heinz
Transaction Value: $23 billion

Berkshire Hathaway’s (BRK.B) Warren Buffett has had a hard time finding the big elephants he usually likes to hunt, so he must have been very pleased to buy ketchup-maker H.J. Heinz with the help of a private equity partner.

When the news hit, it also fueled a lot of (ultimately false) hope that 2013 would be a banner year for mergers and acquisitions. But that didn’t pan out. Sure, the M&A numbers are the best they’ve been in five years, but they’re still well below all-time highs.

Regardless, it’s always good for market psychology when the Oracle of Omaha goes shopping, and the Heinz deal was a nice vote of confidence early in 2013.

#1: Verizon (VZ) Buys Out Verizon Wireless Stake from Vodafone (VOD)
Transaction Value: $130 billion

The biggest deal of the year — and one of the biggest of all time — was Verizon’s (VZ) agreement to buy out Vodafone’s (VOD) 45% stake in Verizon Wireless.

More than a decade in the making, the deal’s final price tag makes it the third-largest corporate transaction of all time, behind only AOL’s (AOL) merger with Time Warner (TWX), and Vodafone AirTouch’s takeover of Germany’s Mannesmann.

When it comes to mergers and acquisitions, this one looks like a sure winner for VZ shareholders. Even if growth is hard to come by in the saturated mobile market, Verizon Wireless is an absolute cash cow.