Jean Montalvan, a native New Yorker, currently serves as both the managing director of MADES (Malaga Aerospace, Defense & Electronic Systems S.A.) and senior vice president of AIAC (American Industrial Acquisition Corporation). His expertise includes management of complex international manufacturing operations, mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructuring, financial analysis, and business development.
He brings strong international experience working in the United States, Latin America, Europe, and Asia, and is proficient in English, Spanish, German, Italian and Mandarin Chinese. He holds a Zarb MBA with dual majors in finance and marketing, and a BA with triple majors in economics, political science, and liberal arts. He has also pursued advanced studies in International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), Six Sigma, and Chinese history.
In addition to participating in a variety of extreme sports, he enjoys experiences like running with the bulls in Pamplona and is currently planning a Kilimanjaro climb. He has taught university courses in the United States and China, and mentored a number of international students, including Hofstra students, through the MBA admission, international relocation, and adjustment process.
Tell us a little about yourself. What led you to your current career?
I participate in all phases of mergers and acquisitions, but specialize in post-acquisition turnaround management. I am currently the managing director of MADES (a former Raytheon facility in Spain), which manufactures critical electronic systems for defense, aerospace, industrial, and medical device applications. I’ve also managed other companies in different sectors and countries, for AIAC, prior to this role.
AIAC is a NYC-based private equity firm specializing in acquiring distressed manufacturing units of Fortune 500 companies. It owns 60+ world-class plants in over 15 countries with over 8,500 employees and $1.2B+ annual revenue.
I kind of fell into this line of work out of necessity during the recession, shortly after graduating from Zarb around 2008. The fund of funds I was working for was being acquired and could not keep most employees onboard. Through my boss I met an AIAC “deal originator,” whose job was to find acquisition targets. I learned more about AIAC’s niche strategy, saw an opportunity, and made a strategic pitch hoping to create a job for myself. My theory was that Western markets were highly distressed, and that would translate into less consumption, manifesting into troubled Chinese companies ripe for acquisition. I moved to China originally focusing in search of acquisition targets, and found success in the international management and operations side of the business.
What is one piece of advice you would have given your younger self?
Study with passion and urgency. Don’t just do it passively to check a box and get a credential. Study as if your life depended on it. At least the quality of it does. Your competition is global, willing to do things most will not, and it is very hungry
Tell us a bit about your biggest accomplishment.
There is no substitute for the transformational power of living, working and learning abroad. I’ve been privileged to have lived in several countries across four continents, not to mention countless assignments in multiple cities across India, Thailand, Vietnam, Ireland, Germany, Netherlands, France, Croatia, Costa Rica and many more. I’m currently helping with acquisition targets in Egypt, Algeria and Venezuela. For the time being, this corporate vagabond calls Malaga, Spain, home of Picasso and Antonio Banderas, home.
Not everyone can pick up and leave, and my mobility has been the most positive influence of my career. My first move was in 2009 to Xiangfan, China, seeking bluer oceans amid the recession. It was a calculated risk that has paid tremendous dividends. I haven’t stopped moving since. Along the way I improved my Spanish, picked up Mandarin Chinese, and began working on my German. There is no better way to integrate into a country, culture, and economy than by showing the effort of learning the local tongue. I’ve made friends in most corners of the world, lived in postcard-worthy places, and regularly crave foods that are high on most people’s gag meter. It’s been a great ride that I hope to continue indefinitely.
What are some of your biggest goals for your career?
It’s been said that if you can accomplish all your goals in one lifetime, you’re not thinking big enough. In the short run, I will be overseeing multiple international world-class manufacturing operations. In the mid run, I see myself as CEO of a Fortune 500 company or starting a niche strategy fund. And in the long run, maybe politics. Running distressed companies translates well into helping small troubled countries.