Random Ramblings Some assorted notes to lead us into the weekend…
*** Founders Fund last week announced that it had closed its fourth VC fund with $625 million in capital commitments. What it didn’t announce, however, was a change within its actual partnership: Transitioning Sean Parker from a regular partner role into an “executive general partner” position, and promoting principal Brian Singerman to the partnership.
One LP I spoke with said his understanding was that Parker won’t be actively making investments going forward, but will continue to manage out his existing portfolio. Founders Fund’s Bruce Gibney, however, says that Parker “will continue to bring in deals to Founders Fund from time to time” and that the title change is largely cosmetic. Parker, Gibney says, has taken a significant operating role at a portfolio company in each of the past three Founders Fund vehicles (Causes for Fund I, Spotify for Fund II and Airtime for Fund III) and is expected to do so again for Fund IV.
*** Mitt Romney is private equity's preferred presidential candidate, given that he made his fortune through VC and LBO deals at Bain Capital. But rival Newt Gingrich has a few PE pros on his donor role.
According to FEC data through the end of September (i.e., before Gingrich’s surge), the following PE pros had contributed to the ex-Speaker’s campaign: James Cooper (Thompson Street Capital Partners), Ramsey Battin (Arcapita Ventures), Jason Wallace (Blackstone Advisory Partners) and William Weathers (Atlanta-area angel). I’ve posted more detailed information here.
*** Yesterday’s Big Deal was that flash sales site Fab.com raised $40 million in Series B funding led by Andreessen Horowitz at a reported $200 million valuation. This came just months after Fab pivoted from its original incarnation as a gay social network. So I spent a few minutes on the phone yesterday with Jeff Jordan, the former OpenTable CEO and current Andreessen Horowitz partner who took a Fab.com board seat. A few takeaways:
Part of the due diligence
involved seeing what merchants were saying on Twitter about using Fab.
Fab’s revenue run rate was reported to be $50 million in November. It took OpenTable eight years to hit that mark.
Jordan believes the online private retail space looks a bit like the daily deals space 18 months ago. So I asked him about a recent comment from Kynetic exec Saj Cherian, who believes the sector is ripe for consolidation. Jordan didn’t seem to agree, largely because so many of the current brands with deep subject expertise (Zulily, One Kings Lane, etc.) are producing big numbers. Not quite sure, however, why that would preclude consolidation – particularly given what we’re now seeing in daily deals (where consolidation is rampant, although that space was segmented more by geography than product sector).
Jordan declined to comment on speculation that he could be in line for an operational role at Yahoo, were Andreessen Horowitz to become a shareholder. He said (smartly) that he’s really enjoying life as a venture capitalist.
*** Beginning to wonder how the U.S. Postal Servicechanges will affect direct mail businesses – many of which have PE investment.
Jim Foley of Kirtland Capital Partners, whose portfolio includes Northwest Mailing Service, says that the scheduling changes aren’t too worrisome so long as companies like Northwest can continue putting product into the system six days a week. Obviously the company will need to alter its customer lead times, but scheduling changes are manageable. The real problem, he says, would be if mailing costs rise substantially.
*** Today’s lead link on Pre-Marketing is about fracking chemicals finding their way into a Wyoming aquifer. This could quickly become the country’s most important economic story, given the rapid way in which fracking is changing and expanding U.S. energy production. Also will be interesting to learn how PE firms in the space are hedging against possible EPA action (invest heavily in conventional energy?).
*** During yesterday’s MF Global hearing (see recap), House Agriculture Committee chairman Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) kept referring to the bankrupt company as “FM Global.” Not just once or twice, but at least a dozen times (including after an hour-long break during which you’d have thought some aide would have corrected him).
Thing is, there actually is an FM Global. Giant insurance company based in Rhode Island, and it was not terribly pleased to be drawn into Corzine-gate. “Not cool,” tweeted FM Global spokesman Jamie Pachomski. “@FMGlobal is a large, US-based #insurer with NO ties to @MFGlobal."
*** My big goal today is to catch up on expense reports, but I’d also like to delve into the crowd-funding issue. It’s one of those things I’ve been neglecting for no good reason. If you have strong opinions on the subject, be sure to drop me a line. I go into it with little to no bias on either side.
Thoma Bravo has agreed to acquire Blue Coat Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BCSI), a –based provider of online security and WAN optimization solutions. The deal is valued at $1.3 billion, or $25.81 per share (48% premium to yesterday’s closing price). Teachers' Private Capital also is participating as an equity investor, while Jefferies Finance has committed debt financing. Goldman Sachs is managing the process for Blue Coat. www.bluecoat.com
Klarna, a European online payments service based in Stockholm, has raised $155 million in venture capital funding. DST Global and General Atlantic co-led the round, and were joined by return backer Sequoia Capital. www.klarna.com
Bill.com, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based bill payment and invoicing platform, has raised $15 million in Series D funding. Financial Partners Fund, a unit of Citi Capital Advisors, was joined by return backers DCM, Emergence Capital Partners, August Capital, Jafco Ventures and Total Technology Ventures. www.bill.com
CiiNOW, a Mountain View, Calif.-based white-label cloud platform, has raised $13 million in Series A funding. Backers include Foundation Capital, Alcatel-Lucent and an undisclosed “strategic investor.”www.ciinow.com
Private Equity Deals
The Gores Group has completed its previously-announced acquisition of Alpheus Communications, a Houston-based fiber optic and data center operator, from Genesis Park and El Paso Corp. No financial terms were disclosed. www.goresgroup.com OppenheimerFunds, the largest institutional shareholder in Talbots Inc. (NYSE: TLB), said that a $212 million offer for the struggling retailer from Sycamore Partners is “very low.” www.talbots.com Shaner Capital has acquired Metal Foundations, a Pittsburgh-based designer and installer of metal building foundations. No financial terms were disclosed. www.shanercorp.com
Sun Capital Partners has agreed to acquire German retail chain Strauss Innovation from EQT Partners and the founding Geringhoff family. No financial terms were disclosed. Strauss is a private-label retail chain with approximately 100 stores in Germany and around 1,100 employees.www.suncappart.com
No PE-backed IPO news this morning...
Lattice Semiconductor Corp. (Nasdaq: LSCC) has agreed to acquire SiliconBlue Technologies, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based provider of custom mobile device solutions, for $62 million in cash. SiliconBlue had raised around $57 million in VC funding, including an $18 million Series D round this past July. Shareholders include Atlantic Bridge, BlueRun Ventures, Crosslink Capital, New Enterprise Associates and Apex Venture Partners. www.siliconbluetech.com Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan has agreed to sell its 80% stake in Maple Leaf Entertainment, the holding company for the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey franchise and Toronto Raptors basketball franchise, to Rogers Communications Inc. and BCE Inc. for C$1.3 billion, according to the Globe and Mail.
IBM (NYSE: IBM) has agreed to acquire DemandTec (Nasdaq: DMAN), a San Mateo, Calif.-based collaborative analytics cloud for retailers and consumer products companies. The deal is valued at approximately $440 million, or $13.20 per share. www.ibm.com Chow Tai Fook Jewelery, a Hong Kong-based jewelry retailer, raised $2 billion in its Hong Kong IPO, pricing at the bottom of its range. The company has an initial market cap of around $19.3 billion.
Infinova of China has agreed to acquire March Networks Corp. (TSX: MN), a Canadian maker of surveillance technology, for C$90.1 million. The C$5 per share offer price represents a 2.24% premium to yesterday’s closing price. www.marchnetworks.com Nextag, a San Mateo, Calif.–based online comparison shopping company, has acquired FanSnap, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based live event ticket search engine. No financial terms were disclosed.Nextag backers include Providence Equity Partners, Morgenthaler Ventures and Technology Crossover Partners. FanSnap has raised around $15 million from General Catalyst Partners and Highland Capital Partners. www.nextag.com
Red Robot Labs, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based mobile gaming company whose lead title is Life Is Crime, has acquired British game developer Supermono Studios. No financial terms were disclosed. Red Robot recently raised $8.5 million in Series A funding from Benchmark Capital, Shasta Ventures and return backers Rick Thompson (co-founder of Playdom) and Chamath Palihapitiya (ex-Facebook).www.redrobotlabs.com
Firms & Funds
The New Jersey Division of Investment has committed up to $1.5 billion for a custom managed account with The Blackstone Group. www.blackstone.com
Mitsubishi UFJ Trustand Banking Corp. has agreed to acquire a 15% stake in Australian wealth management firm AMP Capital, according to Reuters. The deal is valued at around $425 million.
Moving In, Up and On
Jeffrey Goldstein has rejoined Hellman & Friedman as a managing director. He had left the firm in 2009 to become Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance and Counselor to the Secretary of the Treasury. www.hf.com