Centerview mulling new tech, consumer buyout funds

  • Blair Effron co-founded firm in 2006
  • Advised on $28 bln Heinz buyout
  • Employs ex-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin

Centerview Partners, the New York investment bank co-founded by big ticket deal-maker Blair Effron, is quietly moving ahead with plans to raise sector-focused private equity funds aimed at the technology and consumer businesses, according to two people familiar with the firm.

The effort is still in the early stages. The firm raised its first buyout fund some seven years ago, gathering $850 million for Centerview Capital LP.

Centerview Partners, which focuses on investment banking but also runs Centerview Capital, a private investment firm that provides capital to companies to accelerate growth, did not return a phone call or email from Buyouts.

Centerview Capital’s private equity strategy is focused on the middle market. It plans to hire an executive at a larger technology firm, possibly from Silicon Valley, to beef up the firm’s operating expertise, a source said.

The firm is drawing inspiration for sector-focused funds from Blackstone Group’s and Evercore Partners’s past forays into private equity, the source said.

Centerview Capital filed a Form D for Centerview Capital Technology Fund LP in June, with a target of $500 million and zero money raised. The firm has not filed any Form Ds for a possible Centerview Capital II LP.

The firm has already lured at least one high-profile player in the world of finance by signing up Robert Rubin, former Treasury Secretary, as general counsel, in 2010.

A veteran of UBS and Dillon Read, Effron worked on one of the largest-ever deals in the buyout world as an advisor to H.J. Heinz on its $28 billion take-private sale to Berkshire Hathaway and 3G. He also worked on the ketchup-maker’s proxy contest with Trian Partners, according to a biography on his firm’s website.

Effron co-founded Centerview Partners in 2006. The banker is active in New York society circles as a supporter of New Visions for Public Schools, a charity that staged an event last month at the Pierre Hotel with Tom Brokaw, Evercore Partners Inc founder Roger Altman and hedge fund titan John Paulson. A Bloomberg report said Effron raised $1.1 million for the independent East Harlem School for low income students.

Among its recent deals, Centerview Capital in November funded Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine, a distiller of premium moonshine in Gatlinburg, Tenn. The investment was described as “significant” with an eye on expansion, according to a statement from the firm.

“Ole Smoky’s products have broad adult appeal and benefit from important long-term spirits trends, such as increased consumer interest in craft distilling and flavored spirits, and also from a strong interest in products with deep American heritage,” Centerview Capital’s Jim Kilts and David Hooper said in a statement. Another high-profile hire for Centerview Capital, Kilts is a former chief executive of Gillette and Nabisco.

Among its bigger deals, Centerview Capital teamed up with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co and Vestar Capital Partners to buy Del Monte Foods for $5.3 billion in 2011. Centerview Partners advised Kraft on its $22 billion acquisition of Cadbury, and News Corp on its $5.6 billion purchase of Dow Jones, among others.

The California Public Employee Retirement System’s Capital Link Fund reported an IRR of 7.4 percent and an investment multiple of 1.2x as of March 31 for Centerview Capital, according to the retirement system.  The fund committed $40 million in 2008 and has contributed $21 million.

The firm has offices in San Francisco, London and Los Angeles.