Chet Walden Tribute



The Founder and former CEO of Walden Businesses, Chet Walden, passed away on Friday, June 20, 2014, leaving a legacy built on trust, integrity, professionalism and respect. He was truly a GREAT man who built our company based on these same core values. Affectionately nicknamed our “Fearless Leader”, Chet was just that. Chet led with strength and fairness and was the eternal optimist. His smile lit up the room and his laughter was infectious. The depth to which he will be missed cannot be expressed in words. Sara Burden, Chet's partner for over 20 years, and the President of Walden Businesses, is seamlessly moving the company forward, true to the Walden Way. We will honor him with our continued success as business intermediaries.

One of Chet’s favorite quotes, by Hunter S. Thompson, was:

 “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty, well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming WOW, what a ride!!!”

He had a great ride!


“GOD must have needed Chet Walden in Heaven to work out some issues among folks. Things like this are above our ability to understand; we are all saddened and shocked by his passing. "THANK YOU, LORD" for giving us all an opportunity to know him and the opportunity to learn from him. Chet is a true "Servant/Leader" in all of the best meanings of that..., his calm, but strong voice was always welcome - especially in some of our most challenging & darkest times. His son was the Regimental Commander at The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, during his senior year. "The apple does not fall far from the tree", and you could see that Chet was leadership personified. He made all of us and all lives that he touched, better. He was a true friend; and most certainly, a true friend to IBBA and M&A Source. Our prayers are for his wonderful family; and to GOD for sharing with us a wonderful life. We are all richer because of Chet Walden.”


- Ed Pendarvis

“Everyone who knew Chet was touched by is graciousness and his infectious laughter. Chet was an eternal optimist who lived life to its fullest. He was “all in” in this world. He had only one speed – pedal to the metal, full speed ahead. Regardless of the situation, Chet could be counted on to provide sound advice and reasons to be positive. He definitely was not a “doom and gloom” guy.

“He liked to say that he was “just a country boy trying to make it in the big city.” He had an easy way about him, but if you looked underneath his “country boy” exterior you would have found the heart of a champion competitor. He liked to for his family, win for his friends, win for the associations that he devoted so much unselfish time to, win for his clients, and win for his much-loved staff at Walden Businesses.

“Chet joined the International Business Brokers Association (IBBA) in February 1999 and received the prestigious Certified Business Intermediary (CBI) in 2001. Later that year, he received the designation of Board Certified Intermediary (BCI) from the Georgia Association of Business Brokers. Chet was also a member of The M&A Source.

In 2008, he earned one of the highest certifications in the merger & acquisition profession, the coveted Mergers & Acquisitions Master Intermediary (M&AMI) designation. Currently, there are fewer than one hundred professionals worldwide who have achieved this prestigious certification.

“In 2009, Chet was named as a “Fellow of the IBBA.” Fellows have to be a member of the IBBA for ten years or longer, be a CBI in good standing, and have provided significant contributions to the association. Chet easily met those qualifications!

“Chet served on numerous boards and associations at State and National levels. He began serving on the Board of Directors for The M&A Source in 2009 and was involved with numerous committees. Chet served as Chairman of The M&A Source during 2012, working hand-in-hand with Pino Bacinello (IBBA Chairman) as the IBBA and The M&A Source ended a relationship with a previous management association and entered into a new association management agreement with Meeting Expectations. He was also an approved education course developer and instructor for The M&A Source. In acknowledging his contributions to The M&A Source, Chet received the Darrell Fouts Award, the association’s highest recognition, in November 2013.

“As for his business practice, Chet was the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Walden Businesses, a prominent southeastern mergers and acquisitions firm based in Atlanta, GA specializing in representing the owners of privately held manufacturing, distribution, and business to business service companies. From humble beginnings, he and his dediated team grew the business from a single location to two offices in Georgia (Atlanta & Athens), as well as offices in Raleigh, NC and Costa Rica.

"Chet was a nationally recognized intermediary in the world of mergers and acquisitions. Since 1990, he guided business owners through the buying and selling process, completing several hundred transactions. Chet was proactive in mergers, acquisitions, corporate buy-outs, capital procurement, strategic structuring, and buyer representation. During his illustrious career, he had been retained by law firms, accounting firms, and private business owners to handle market opinions for them or their clients.

“Through the years, Chet has been honored by Catalyst Magazine as one of the Top 50 Entrepreneurs in Georgia. Atlanta Magazine voted his firm as “one of the top places to work in Atlanta.” In December 2011, Walden Businesses was named 2011 Best of Business by the Small Business Commerce Association Community. Chet was frequently featured in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Competitive Edge magazine, and Mover Magazine. He was considered one of the top speakers and instructors for mergers and acquisitions in the Southeast United States.

“Now let’s get personal. I first met Chet face-to-face during the M&A Source 2011 Fall Conference in Phoenix. There wasn’t much difference in our ages, but Chet frequently asked me “Who’s your daddy?” Having lost my own father back in 1993, I liked calling Chet “daddy” even though he was more like the big brother I never had.

“It’s funny how my mind works sometimes. While constantly thinking today about the loss of my second daddy, my mind wandered around and eventually landed on a quote from the 1981 movie Arthur. Dudley Moore played the role of Arthur and Sir John Gielgud played the part of his long-suffering servant, Hobson. Although theirs was supposed to be an employer/employee relationship, Arthur had a closer relationship with Hobson than with his own father. After Hobson died, Arthur said “I was lucky to have known him at all.”

“Although I have only known Chet for about 21⁄2 years, the effect he has had on my life will impact me for years to come. I genuinely loved Chet, and like Arthur, I was lucky to have known him at all.”

- Joe Lindsey, M&AMI, CBI, LREA
In Memoriam, M&A Source

“Chet was a great mentor, great intermediary, and for me an even better friend. You could always count on Chet to bring a positive to ANYTHING. As positive as he was, he was also both pragmatic and realistic. Chet was a person who saw opportunity and one who dedicated himself to the common good.

“Chet was not going to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, but in my mind he could have – he had that type of impact. He gave to the IBBA and M&A Source tirelessly. It was never ending. He led our M&A Source Association in 2012, during a time of uncertainty, and helped put us back on solid footing. I can remember endless conversations with Chet about the merits of what we were doing, and how both Associations would grow with the change.

“Sometimes past Chairs of Associations fade a bit after their tenure as the workload is large, time consuming, and all of us have practices to continue to work. Chet contradicted standard logic and did just the opposite. Chet remained very active after his Chairmanship, and helped to continue to grow our Associations through initiatives he led. Working to achieve new levels of education and acknowledgement for professionals dedicated to this industry, Chet recently negotiated a new means of fast track education for the M&A Source and IBBA members that is being considered by the Board of the M&A Source. He worked tirelessly on this for over a year, and the end result was almost in sight. If and when we begin to offer this, I know I will always think of this as the Chet Walden M&A Education Initiative. I hope others will too.

“Chet was not a man who thrived on a million details, but he understood how to evaluate the big picture and bring people together to chase a cause. He wasn’t good at that; he was really great at that. He had a way of making you welcome, whether he knew you or not, and was always impressed by the people in the IBBA and M&A Source who gave their time to make all of us better. I remember in 2011, Chet and I were discussing some strategic needs for the Associations over the phone, and unfortunately the discussion starting getting too technical. Chet, as only he could be, would stop me in mid-sentence, and say, “Obi, ok, dumb it down a bit.” I would laugh and try to create some metaphors to bring insight. I knew he really understood it, but we would both roll out laughing by the time we thought about the craziness of my metaphors and the implications of the strategy if it really were implemented against my examples. The discussions would always bring us closer, and that is something that others as well as I will profoundly miss.”

“Men like Chet don’t come along very often!”

- Steve Wain, CBI, M&AMI
In Memorium, IBBA

“Chet will be dearly missed by us all! He was a friend, a mentor and teacher to many of us. He had the ability to stand firm and yet be gentle, to be proud and compassionate. A man with courage to walk where others would not, to stand firm in front of adversity, and to give one a hug when one needed it. He knew how to laugh and make others laugh when laughter was difficult. He loved his family the most, and his friends and business and industry associates were always of most importance to him. He really cared!

“In the year Chet and I worked together as respective chairs of our Associations’ brands, we grew real close and stayed close, we struggled together, we worked together, and he brought much humor and laughter to soften the edges whenever it was needed. He so cared!! He was thoughtful and methodical, patient, and kind, knowledgeable and caring, strong and firm, a teacher, a mentor and a never-ending student. This is a man who will be truly missed by us all. Our industry is in a better place because of Chet. Many of us are in a better place because of Chet! He will be remembered in our thoughts and his family in our prayers. The sun will never stop shining from this man! We miss you Chet and love you very much."

- Pino L. Bacinello

“Chet was someone I looked up to in our profession. He was always willing to help and cared greatly for IBBA and the M&A Source. On many occasions he took the time to talk with me about both organizations and offered his help in any way. I truly appreciated his kind words and friendship. May God bless Chet's family, loved ones and friends in their time of grief. Chet, rest in peace my friend as you will be greatly missed by us all. With Love and Compassion,”

– Cress Diglio, Jr.

“Chet, you gave much inspiration to all of us... thanks for everything! I enjoyed many good times with you... rest in peace my friend."

-Alan Tronson

“He was the first person I interacted with from The M&A Source and over the last two years we built a friendship and we enjoyed emailing or calling one another regularly just to check in. He was an incredible man, leaving a great legacy for his peers to remember."

- Shelly Bentley

“We all know how precious life is and it is truly brought home through Chet's passing. He was a great guy and so well loved and respected in our industry. He will be truly missed! Our sincerest sympathies and prayers for his family and his firm."

- Marci and Ron Woolworth

“He was a very special person. A great mentor. Chet you will be greatly missed but never forgotten.”

- Scott Bushkie

“Today’s email about Chet caused the sun to set on this day for me. He had every gift but the length of years. It is so unfair such goodness, such vibrancy; such good humor has been taken from us. My Scottish heritage says when a person is born they are like a fine piece of cloth. As they live their life they can soil it, damage it or tear it. Chet has woven a beautiful tapestry of love, beauty and accomplishment. While words are not enough they are all we have to express ourselves. As the words flow in from family, friends and those he touched in our industry they are memorializing the richly textured and beautiful tapestry that was Chet’s life. Let us be thankful he came into our lives, and let us aspire and strive to do as well as he did as we complete the weavings of our lives.”

-Keith McLeod

“He has been a great friend to all and a selfless contributor to our fine organization. I can hear his voice and humor as I type this... I will miss him deeply.”

- John Zayac

“As I write this, I am in mainland China having supper after a long day of business. I don't know if you'll recall me but I came to Chet and you several years ago with the intention of selling our small, closely-held company. In terms of the deals Walden typically arranges, ours was well below the mean. Still you both couldn't have been nicer or more intent about providing us with the same level of service and consideration as your large accounts. Chet was such a believer in fairness and integrity and the desire to exceed expectations. Though a deal never materialized in our case, I took away some great lessons about the right way to conduct such sensitive business.

“Sadly, Chet will be missed by many...not just for his expertise and massive Rolodex, but for the joy and optimism he brought to every relationship. The good news, however, is that his legacy is exceptionally well preserved in your leadership and beliefs in the same high standards of conduct. His mindset at passing had to have been calmed by the knowledge that he had the perfect successor in place. He couldn't have chosen better. The sorrow will pass, the legacy will endure.

“Condolences for his passing...and best wishes for the future of Walden Businesses.”

-Rick Clark
President & CEO

“Chet was a friend to everyone, a mentor to his peers, and one of the most talented individuals in our industry. He will be deeply missed.

“Chet's smile, laughter and his outlook on life are what we will remember the most. His kindness laid a foundation for his professional growth, being admired by our industry as a gentleman and a savvy businessman.

“He was a God loving man, proud of his family and benevolent.

“Chet's legacy lives on in The M&A Source as a great leader and our chairman in 2012, who contributed selflessly to moving forward the goals of our association. He was also instrumental in educational course development, a great instructor, and paved the way for the continued growth of the M&A Source.

“His ability to lead his own firm, M&A Source members and the M&A Source leadership team is an attribute that we all remember and many of us have adopted as our own.

“Chet Walden will be missed by many and always remembered as the Southern Gentleman with the ability to make anyone smile.

“Chet, cheers to you our dear friend.”

- Dora Lanza, M&AMI, CBI, CSBA


• M&A Source • International Business Brokers Association (IBBA) • Cornerstone International Alliance •  XPX Atlanta - Exit Planning Exchange •
• National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) • Kennesaw State University, Coles College of Business • 


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