Michael W. Ferro was born in Merrick, NY in 1966. Nearly three decades later, he would go on to found a private equity firm by the same name as where he was born. Michael W. Ferro was an entrepreneur young at life. After he graduated high school in Naperville, Ill and attended the University of Illinois, Mr. Ferro decided that he wanted to get into business for himself.
He started his first company, Chem-Roof, in his early 20s. Chem-Roof made coatings to treat wood. He would sell the company when he was 25, moving on to the tech industry, which was surging in growth in the mid-1990s. Michael Ferro was a software technologist and understood there was a need for robust internet solutions to optimize business processes.
In 1996, Michael W. Ferro founded Click Commerce, a B2B internet company that helped facilitate buying and selling transactions between businesses. As the founder of Click Commerce, Michael Ferro earned accolades from various publications for building the successful company from the ground up at the young age of 28. He was one of the youngest entrepreneurs named to Forbes’ “Tech’s 100 Highest Rollers” list.
Mr. Ferro took the company public in 2000, and he sold it to Illinois Tool Works in 2006 for $292 million in cash, establishing himself as a major player in the world of tech.
Michael W. Ferro started Merrick Ventures, LLC. back in 1994. He has been the CEO of the private equity firm for the past 24 years. After Mr. Ferro made his fortune selling Click Commerce, he was able to attract some of the nation’s most powerful investors who had interest in Chicago’s emerging tech companies. Major investors – including John Canning, a founder of the buyout firm Madison Dearborn Partners, and Andrew McKenna, chairman emeritus of McDonald’s – saw the potential of Merrick Ventures and Michael W. Ferro and invested millions to bring venture funding into the Midwest.
Early investments by Merrick Ventures include Merge Healthcare, which was bought in 2015 by IBM. While serving as chairman of Merge Healthcare, Michael Ferro developed a patent portfolio that included AI medical imaging technology, which was a major selling point for IBM.
In 2011, Michael W. Ferro and other Chicago investors, including many at Merrick Ventures, invested $20 million to form a holding company to buy the Chicago Sun-Times. Five years later, in February 2016, Merrick Ventures invested $44.4 million in Tribune Publishing, the parent company of the Chicago Tribune. Ferro donated his share of the Chicago Sun-Times to a charitable trust to avoid any anti-trust issues. Michael W. Ferro was the largest shareholder of Tribune Publishing with a 17 percent share of the company. In 2018, Ferro retired and sold his majority share.