Co-Founder & Co-President
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.
Co-Founder & Co-President
Franklin McLarty is the 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 $1.6 billion 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 firm with properties located across the central United States. 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 $185 million in hotel assets.
Mr. 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. Mr. McLarty also sits on the Vital Voices Solidarity Council.
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.
Parris Boyd is a Principal of The Firmament Group and a member of the Investment Committee. Mr. Boyd is responsible for leading the firm’s origination efforts, executing transactions, and advising management teams of the firm’s portfolio companies. Mr. Boyd currently serves on the Board of Directors of Vision Integrated Partners and Destination Pet.
Mr. Boyd has been an investor and advisor in a wide range of industries since 2002. Prior to his role at The Firmament Group, Mr. Boyd advised a variety of small businesses on operational restructuring and fundraising and served as an investment professional at GarMark Partners, where he worked with Mr. Smith. As a member of the investment team at GarMark, Mr. Boyd sourced, led and successfully exited several private debt and equity investments in the business services, education and consumer products industries. Previously, Mr. Boyd worked at American Capital, Ltd. in the Leveraged Buyout Group. During his time at American Capital, Mr. Boyd executed and oversaw a portfolio of control equity investments in a wide variety of lower-middle market businesses and industries. Mr. Boyd began his career in Investment Banking at Jackson Securities and Wachovia Securities, where he focused on equity research and advising small businesses on mergers & acquisitions and private placements.
Mr. Boyd received his B.A. from Clark Atlanta University, where he completed a major in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance.
Lisa Moraglia is a Principal at The Firmament Group, where she is focused on the Fund’s marketing and investment activities. Over the past two decades, Ms. Moraglia has focused on making senior debt investments in companies ranging from large publicly-traded companies to small, private-equity-owned businesses. Prior to joining Firmament, Ms. Moraglia was a Principal at Small Business Community Capital, an Impact SBIC fund, where she was responsible for identifying, structuring and executing new deal opportunities and was a member of the Investment Committee. Previously, Ms. Moraglia was a Vice President in the middle market CLO group at Ares Management LLC, where she focused on underwriting and portfolio management for middle market companies in a variety of industries including Retail, Food, Home Building Products and Business Services. Prior to Ares, Ms. Moraglia worked for several foreign banks that maintained a U.S. presence, where she evaluated and executed on syndicated and bi-lateral financing opportunities for multi-national corporations.
Ms. Moraglia received her B.A. from Fordham University, where she earned a degree in Italian Literature.
Tedmond Y. Wong is a Principal at The Firmament Group, where he is involved in all aspects of the firm’s investment activities. Mr. Wong is responsible for transaction execution, the firm’s international expansion efforts, and recruitment and training of junior investment professionals. Mr. Wong currently serves on the Board of Directors for Denali Water Solutions, Logistyx Technologies, and Transferre Technologies.
Mr. Wong began his career in private equity as an analyst at Wasserstein & Co., where he evaluated middle market buyout opportunities in the domestic consumer products and media sectors. Mr. Wong has also spent time in the capital markets group of the law firm Herbert Smith LLP in London. In addition, Mr. Wong brings operational and fundraising experience from leadership and advisory roles at small businesses in the talent agency and manufacturing industries.
Mr. Wong holds an MBA, with a concentration in finance, from The Wharton School where he served as Co-Chair of the Wharton Restructuring & Distressed Investing Conference. Mr. Wong also holds a J.D. from Penn Law School, where he served as an editor of the Penn Law Review. Mr. Wong received his B.A. cum laude in economics from Harvard University.
Principal - UK Managing Director
Marion A. Bernard is a Principal at The Firmament Group, where she is involved in all aspects of the Fund’s investment activity with a particular focus on building business across the UK and Europe.
Since 1993, Ms. Bernard has been funding small and medium sized enterprises in the UK with both debt and equity capital. She began her career with Barclays Bank plc, where she worked in the City Corporate Group and the Acquisition Finance teams, before moving to work for 3i plc between 1997 and 2003, where she was involved in a range of deals covering buyouts, growth capital and venture capital. Marion led The Recycling Fund for Impax Asset Management between 2003 and 2005, before joining NorthStar Ventures as CEO where between 2005 and 2011 she led the successful development of this pre-eminent regional fund management business, focused on making long-term investments in small and medium sized enterprises across the North East and Yorkshire markets.
Between 2011 and 2017, Ms Bernard played a key role in establishing BGF as the largest UK growth capital provider. As Regional Director for London and the South East, Ms. Bernard was responsible for 39 investments totaling £250m, with 6 successful exits to date – Acro Aircraft, Statesman Travel, Unruly Media, The Exchange Lab, Plastique, and Molecular Products. She served as a member of the national Executive Committee, Ventures Operating Board, and all Investment Committees since BGF was launched in 2011, and was on the Board of Directors for Unruly, Statesman and The Consulting Consortium.
Ms. Bernard graduated with a B.A. (Hons) in Economics from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne where she also played field hockey. She is an associate member of the chartered institute of bankers (ACIB) and is authorized by the FCA.
In addition to her role at The Firmament Group, Ms Bernard is an independent director to the UK Innovation and Science Seed Fund’s advisory Board, an early stage venture capital fund building and growing technology companies stemming from the UK’s research base. She also chairs an Investment Committee for The Community Investment Enterprise Facility, established by Big Society Capital to support Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs) across the UK.
Blake Chandler is an Operating Partner at The Firmament Group, and the interim Chief Financial Officer at Southern United Automotive Group. He has spent almost 20 years in various finance and accounting roles with both public firms and private companies. Before joining Firmament, Mr. Chandler was a Business Advisory partner at HoganTaylor, a regional public accounting firm headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma. While at HoganTaylor, Mr. Chandler provided small business clients with consulting services related to buy-sale transactions, financial reporting, accounting processes and tax planning. Mr. Chandler began his career with Arthur Andersen in its audit group where he worked on both small, closely-held private businesses and large publicly traded companies. He also worked for five years at a Fortune 500 telecommunications company where he served as the Director of Corporate Accounting and Financial Planning. Mr. Chandler’s experience encompasses a broad range of industries including automotive retail, commercial construction, manufacturing, health care, telecommunications and real estate.
Mr. Chandler is a graduate of The University of Arkansas where he was a double major in Accounting and Finance.
Lauren Slabaugh Steel is a Vice President at The Firmament Group, where she is responsible for business development and investment activities, as well as capital formation. Mrs. Steel currently serves on the Board of Directors of Vision Integrated Partners and the Baptist Health Foundation.
Prior to joining Firmament, Mrs. Steel spent seven years at Stephens Inc., a privately-owned investment bank focused on small and middle market companies. At Stephens, Mrs. Steel served as an Equity Research Analyst covering Internet Technology as well as Mortgage & Real Estate Services. Mrs. Steel spent three years in corporate finance focusing on private equity capital raises, follow-on equity offerings and M&A transactions in the financial services, consumer and power technology industries, and also spent a year in institutional equity sales covering Western Europe and the Southwestern US.
Mrs. Steel holds a master’s degree in Local Economic Development from the London School of Economics and Political Science, where she completed her dissertation on access to capital markets for small and medium-sized businesses. Mrs. Steel received her B.S. summa cum laude from the Sam. M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas with a degree in International Finance.
Brian L. Peters is a Vice President at The Firmament Group. Prior to joining Firmament, Mr. Peters spent two years as an Associate at Fortress Investment Group in the Transportation and Infrastructure practice, where he evaluated buyout and investment opportunities in the rail and energy sectors. Mr. Peters began his career as an Analyst in the Transportation and Logistics group at Stifel Nicolaus, where he focused on mergers and acquisitions, debt and equity financings, and other strategic advisory initiatives for middle market companies.
Mr. Peters holds a B.A. in Economics from Johns Hopkins University, where he graduated with honors, and served as the captain of the varsity football team.
Peter A. Strome is a Senior Associate at The Firmament Group. Prior to joining Firmament, Mr. Strome was an Analyst in the Diversified Industrials group at Stifel Nicolaus, where he focused on mergers and acquisitions, debt and equity financings and other strategic advisory initiatives for middle market companies. Mr. Strome currently serves on the Board of Advisors for Blue Jays Unlimited, the development and networking organization of Johns Hopkins University Athletics.
Mr. Strome holds a B.A. in Economics from Johns Hopkins University, where he graduated with honors.
Christopher “Green” G. Campbell Jr. is an Associate at The Firmament Group. Prior to joining Firmament, Mr. Campbell spent two years as Vice President of Southern ICEE Distributors, a regional beverage distribution and service provider in the Southeastern U.S. After leading the sale of the company, Mr. Campbell worked as Head of Transition for the buyer—The ICEE Company—a wholly owned subsidiary of J&J Snack Foods.
Mr. Campbell received his B.A. from Yale University, where he majored in economics and played varsity baseball. Mr. Campbell also studied economic policy at The London School of Economics and Political Science. Mr. Campbell currently serves on the Board of Directors of Wastewater Specialties.
Allie Reitman is the Executive Assistant at The Firmament Group, where she also leads the company’s Human Resources efforts. In her role, she manages administrative office duties, organizes events, and carries out people operations by creating a positive and encouraging office culture. Ms. Reitman brings a wide range of organizational and marketing experience to Firmament. Prior to joining Firmament, Ms. Reitman was involved in the public relations and marketing strategies of two online retail businesses.
Ms. Reitman holds a B.S. in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing from Towson University. She also studied Marketing at the American University of Rome. Ms. Reitman received a Certificate in Human Resource Fundamentals from Baruch College in the spring of 2017.
Isabella Cerri is an Administrative and Research Assistant at The Firmament Group. Ms. Cerri brings research experience from her background in the healthcare industry. Prior to joining Firmament, Ms. Cerri worked in long-term healthcare as a recreation assistant for Parker at Monroe. She also completed an internship at Parker in which she researched the most effective methods for recruiting and retaining new employees. Additionally, Ms. Cerri worked at LibraryLink NJ, a nonprofit organization servicing New Jersey libraries.
Ms. Cerri graduated summa cum laude from Rutgers University where she earned a B.S. in Public Health.