BIA Digital Partners Nears $50M Mark

Fund raising is coming to a close for BIA Digital Partners, the first-time private equity investment fund of BIA Financial Network, a Chantilly, Va.-based boutique investment bank specializing in media and telecommunications.

Although marketing fell behind schedule once the climate for venture capital investment soured last fall, BIA closed on an initial $20 million commitment from limited partners in February.

“We started fund-raising in the summer of 2000 and hoped to close earlier this year,” said Lloyd Sams, manager of the fund and a former managing director and head of First Union Securities? communications and media finance group. “Given the environment, we?re just pleased to have gotten to a first close. We?re glad to have gotten over that hump and be at a point to make investments now.”

The firm expects to take in $50 million total of private capital, and leverage that into a $150 million private equity investment pool after securing a SBIC license from the federal government?s Small Business Administration. To date, four banks, including two pure-play commercial banks, have signed onto the fund. RGM Financial Marketing of Southport, Conn. is placing the remainder of the LP shares. Fund-raising should be complete by the end of August.

To date, the firm has looked at 30 deals, but has not yet pulled the trigger on a single one, Sams said. Still, the fund will provide subordinated debt and preferred equity for mid- to late-stage private companies in broadcasting, radio and publishing as well as rural ILECs and tower companies. The fund will make commitments between $2 million and $10 million in companies with a total enterprise value between $30 million and $100 million, and is expecting its LPs to make co-investments of up to $25 million. Over its three- to four-year investment cycle, the fund expects to back 12 to 18 mezzanine deals.

“Our intent is to be very proactive and try to mine the relationships we?ve built over the years and make transactions happen rather than let the deals come to us,” Sams said.

Sams will manage the fund alongside Gregg Johnson, co-founder of BIA Capital Corp., Thomas Buono, chairman and chief executive of BIA Financial Network, and Charles Wiebe, managing director of BIA Capital Corp. BIA Financial Network provides consulting, research and valuation services to telecommunications, media and entertainment companies. BIA Capital Corp. is its investment banking affiliate.

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