Livingstone launches cannabis-focused affiliate, Sharp Capital Advisors

  • Stephen Miles
  • Sep 2020
  • M&A: Buy-Side
  • M&A: Sell-Side
  • Debt Advisory
  • Special Situations

Livingstone Partners (“Livingstone”), the Chicago-based international middle-market investment bank, announced today the launch of new affiliate Sharp Capital Advisors (“Sharp”), a boutique advisory firm focused exclusively on providing best-in-class transaction advice and deal execution to the cannabis industry.

At the helm of Sharp Capital Advisors is investment banking veteran Stephen Miles, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Livingstone. With over 25 years of experience guiding clients through mergers and acquisitions and placements of institutional debt and equity, Miles has completed well over 100 transactions across a wide variety of sectors. During his tenure, the firm has expanded into multiple countries and rapidly climbed the ranks to become one of the most active banks in the middle market.

As the legal cannabis sector matures, access to experienced financial professionals will increase exponentially in importance,” commented Stephen Miles. “Because of its rapid growth, exposure to a constantly-evolving patchwork of regulations, and its lack of access to traditional sources of institutional capital due to Federal illegality, we believe a hyper-focus on the sector is required in order to provide high-value transaction advice.

Although legal cannabis is already a $17B sector in the U.S. alone, and is expected to grow to $30B by 2025, there is a dearth of highly qualified and experienced investment bankers focused on cannabis. Sharp seeks to fill a gap within the burgeoning sector, combining its principals’ years of experience as operators and advisors in both cannabis and real estate with the deal execution capabilities of Livingstone.  Sharp’s transaction advisory services include debt and equity financings, mergers and acquisitions, special situations and corporate governance.

The leadership team is staffed by cannabis industry veterans and seasoned investment bankers ensuring clients will work with professionals well-versed in navigating complex regulatory and financial situations.

Steven Ernest serves as Managing Partner in Chicago. Ernest leverages his decade of experience in the capital markets, as well as five years of full-time focus within the cannabis industry. In addition to advising companies, Steven has been an angel investor in the space since 2015, co-founded the capital advisory platform Mazakali in 2016 and worked as the Director of Business Development at Viridian Capital Advisors before joining Sharp.

Sharp will not be transactional by nature; we are focused on developing long-term, mutually rewarding relationships with our clients,” commented Steven Ernest. “I am pleased to join a firm with such deep expertise and commitment to client service.

Rebecca Hawkinson also serves as Managing Partner in Chicago. With a career background in real estate investment and development encompassing over $500mm in transaction value, she has extensive experience in financial analysis, debt and equity placements, site selection/development, and building strategic relationships.

The cannabis industry is a rapidly emerging sector in commercial real estate, providing upwards of 20% returns to investors who align themselves with successful operators in brick-and-mortar retail, as well as cultivation/manufacturing. Within limited license states, such as Illinois, controlling real estate is critical to the operators, thus creating high quality investment opportunities within the market,” stated Rebecca Hawkinson. “Sharp can help balance operators’ desire for both liquidity and control.”

In addition to providing transaction expertise to clients, Sharp is committed to delivering valuable insights and research, so business owners can access up-to-date information on the sector that will empower better and more informed decisions. Sharp seeks to be more than simply a transactional bank, but rather, to become a trusted voice in the industry.

Sharp’s commitment to the sector extends beyond the client and goes deeper into the community.  Sharp commits to give back to the people and communities negatively impacted by the War on Drugs, particularly in  Chicago. To that end, Sharp will donate both its time and financial resources to organizations such as BUILD, which engages at-risk youth in some of Chicago’s most challenging neighborhoods to help them realize their potential and build their own futures.

To learn more about Sharp, visit the website.


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