that empower small businesses
that empower small businesses
to unlock long-term value
to solve problems
The Firmament Group provides tailored debt and equity capital solutions to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). We provide Wall Street and Beltway expertise from the vantage point of a Heartland family business.
Firmament is a value added partner to entrepreneurs, management teams and business owners and provides solutions by deploying versatile capital in a user-friendly way.
Firmament seeks both senior and junior debt capital opportunities - unitranche, "stretch" senior, second lien and mezzanine debt. We also provide equity capital, primarily as a minority investor, where we have particular expertise, and can structure equity investments either as preferred or common equity.
The Firmament Group was seeded by the Arkansas-based McLarty family office in 2012. Formerly known as McLarty Capital Partners, Firmament has evolved into a global investment platform focused on turning small business into big business.
Christopher D. Smith is the Co-Founder and Co-President of The Firmament Group and leads Firmament’s investment efforts. Since 1999, Mr. Smith has focused exclusively on direct lending and flexible credit solutions in the lower-middle market, and has participated in the growth and maturation of the asset class.
From 1999 to 2012, Mr. Smith was an investment professional at GarMark Partners, one of the longest tenured managers of private junior capital in North America. As a principal and member of the investment committee at GarMark, Mr. Smith participated in an investment strategy focused on generating both current income and capital appreciation. Prior to joining GarMark in 1999, Mr. Smith worked at PaineWebber Inc. in the Investment Banking Division. Mr. Smith focused on the transportation and defense industries in the industrial group, and began his career in the equity capital markets group focusing on initial public offerings and follow-on equity offerings.
Mr. Smith received his B.S. from Georgetown University, where he completed a double major in finance and international business, and played varsity football. Mr. Smith also studied comparative business policy and international finance at Oxford University’s Trinity College. Mr. Smith has served on creditor committees and numerous boards of directors, including Satellite Tracking of People, Smart Tuition, Tire Group International, Denali Water Solutions, and Wastewater Specialties.
Franklin McLarty is Co-Founder and Co-President of The Firmament Group and leads Firmament’s strategic growth initiatives. Mr. McLarty has extensive experience as an operator and investor across various industries including transportation, real estate, reinsurance and finance.
From 2005-2015 Mr. McLarty was a founding executive of RML Automotive. Mr. McLarty was directly involved in all aspects of the company’s growth from a single dealership to one of the nation’s largest auto retailers with over $1.6bn in annual revenue. McLarty was CEO of RML from 2012 to 2015. In 2016 Mr. McLarty was the lead investor in collaborating with Matt Bowers to establish the Southern United Automotive Group, a growing automotive retail platform focused on the southeastern U.S.
In 2012 Mr. McLarty co-founded Caprocq, a real estate investment and asset management firm with properties across the central United States in various asset classes. In 2007, Mr. McLarty was appointed by then Governor Mike Beebe to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. As commissioner he helped oversee the State’s bond guarantee program and the associated portfolio companies. He served as chairman of the commission in 2009. Earlier in his career, he worked in hotel related private equity with McKibbon Hotel Group and The Seaway Group where he led the sale of over $185mm in hotel assets.
McLarty received his B.A. from the University of Richmond and MBA from the University of Miami with a concentration in international business. Mr. McLarty has served on numerous advisory boards and boards of directors including PAM Transportation, Tire Group International, Palo Verde Holdings, The Markham Group, The McLarty Companies and The Seaway Group. Mr. McLarty was executive producer of the award-winning documentary Warrior Champions: From Baghdad to Beijing.
Mack McLarty is the Non-Executive Chairman of The Firmament Group. He is also Chairman of McLarty Associates, an international strategic advisory firm based in Washington D.C., and Chairman of the McLarty Companies, a fourth-generation, family-owned transportation business. The McLarty Companies’ activities include RML Automotive, which is the largest minority-owned automotive dealer group in the country.
Previously, he spent a decade as Chairman and CEO of Arkla, a Fortune 500 natural gas company. Under his leadership, Arkla grew to be the largest natural gas distributor in the United States, with more than two million customers in 11 states, and won recognition for management excellence, environmental initiatives and minority enterprise development.
Mr. McLarty served in the White House under President Clinton in several key positions: Chief of Staff, Counselor to the President and Special Envoy for the Americas, with over five years of service in the President’s Cabinet and on the National Economic Council. In recognition of his work, Mr. McLarty was awarded the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Medal.
Mr. McLarty also worked with President Carter as a member of the Democratic National Committee, was appointed to the National Petroleum Council and the National Council on Environmental Quality by President George H.W. Bush, and served on the St. Louis Federal Reserve Board from 1989 until joining the Clinton Administration in 1992.
Mr. McLarty is active on a variety of corporate and nonprofit boards, including Union Pacific and the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund. In addition, he serves as a Senior International Fellow at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He is also an active member of the Council on Foreign Relations. A summa cum laude graduate of the University of Arkansas, Mr. McLarty was awarded an honorary doctorate from his alma mater in 2000.
Firmament seeks to invest in companies that have revenue between $10 million and $300 million, and EBITDA between $3 million and $30 million.
We seek investment hold sizes of $5 million to $30 million, with our “sweet spot” being approximately $10 million to $20 million. We have the capability to complete larger transactions through co-investments from our limited partners and strategic relationships.
We have an experienced team of investment professionals in strategic locations across the United States, as well as the United Kingdom. Over the years, our careers have enabled us to develop a global reach from the I-95 corridor between New York City and Washington D.C., but our origins still lie in the Heartland.