"Working Girl"--how did Petty Marsh profit?

This is sort of a GQ thread but since I’m asking in the context of a movie I put it here. I bow to the will of the mods if it ends up moved.

In the movie Melanie Griffith works for Company A and Harrison Ford works for Company B. They engineer a deal whereby Company C buys Company D. How do Companies A and B make any money from this? I suppose that they would negotiate some sort of fee for brokering the deal, but why would Companies C and D go along with it? Couldn’t Company C figure out on its own that it wants to buy Company D without letting A and B nose around in its business? In the context of the movie, Trask hadn’t thought about buying radio to solve its various problems, but IRL how does a company that brokers deals between other companies to buy each other make any money off it and why do the companies being bought and sold need middlemen?

They are kind like real estate agents, in that they are not strictly necessary but they have expertise that the other two parties don’t have. There are legal issues, financial issues, etc that the other parties don’t want to be bothered with so they hire Tess’s company to take care of those things.

It’s been so long since I’ve seen the movie (and it wasn’t terribly memorable, IIRC) that I can’t speak for the specific details of the film, but the answer is yes, there are often (but not always) middlemen involved in a large merger or acquisition. Many investment banks have divisions that specialize in this sort of thing. Sometimes the bank makes its money by providing some or all of the financing for the deal, sometimes they get a fee. It just depends.

For example, a couple of years ago a client of ours was selling off some of its subsidiaries. An investment bank was brought on board to put together a bidding process. Once the winning bidder had been established we didn’t hear from the bank until the deal closed – when the collected their fee (they did buy us some nice lucite cubes, though).

I’m not completely sure how unsolicited advice would be handled. It’s possible that Company B has a preexisting business relationship for just these kinds of efforts with Company C or D, and thus knows it will collect a fee for its efforts. It’s also possible that Company B would just approach Company C or D with a vague suggestion, but not give them the details until Company C or D signed some kind of lock-up agreement with them – that boring detail being not necessary to the film.