Citigroup backs Stirling Square Capital Partners

Citigroup is putting up $250 million as a cornerstone commitment to back a new fund launched by a team of high profile pan European players with 50 years’ private equity and investment banking experience. Stirling Square Capital Partners will pursue mid-market opportunities across Europe with a particular focus on Germany, Italy, Scandinavia, the UK and France.

Partner Martin Calderbank, ex-Compass Partners and Candover, did not specify a final target for the fund, but did say that the team intends to raise additional capital from further sources. The fund is already pursuing investments on the back of Citigroup’s commitment. He said: “Our fund is flexibly structured to take on additional commitments and we will do so in due course. Citigroup is a stand alone investor and has no shareholding in the venture.”

Calderbank is delighted to have forged a strong relationship with Citigroup and said: “For all of us it was a great opportunity to come together and we jumped at the opportunity with great enthusiasm.”

The partners are nationals of the markets in which they will operate and bring strong local market knowledge to the team. The fund’s mix of nationalities also enables the team to see cross-border opportunities from an international perspective.

Making up the team are: Stefano Bonfiglio, ex DLJ Merchant Banking Partners; Stuyvie Comfort, ex Citigroup Venture Capital and Alchemy; Jakob Frschner, ex Compass Partners and CVC Capital Partners; Gregorio Napoleone, ex DLJ Merchant Banking Partners; and Bolaji Odunsi, ex Compass Partners and BC Partners.

The partners will be working out of London, but Calderbank stresses: “We will spend a lot of time on planes and trains.” Unlike many of Stirling’s pan European mid-market counterparts being based in London the firm is hoping to avoid the problems of the local office having to report to the head office to obtain approval for a deal. The deal maker from the London office will be able to make a decision on the spot. This speeds up the decision-making process considerably.

Partner Gregorio Napoleone says: “Our great strength does lie in our pan European team. The local angle of our approach will be appreciated, as well as the international aspect. We will look beyond the traditional borders these mid-market companies have traditionally operated in.”

The fund is targeting European companies with enterprise values in the EURO50 million to EURO500 million range. These will typically be sector leaders with international aspirations, competitive advantage and talented management capable of executing a clearly defined value creation strategy.

“We are cautiously optimistic about putting some money to work in the next few months,” says Napoleone. Calderbank agrees there are some tremendous opportunities out there, particularly from corporate spinouts and family-owned companies. The team is also eyeing public-to-privates with interest. “There are many listed companies that don’t have the capital anymore and we believe this will present many opportunities. We are certainly open to public-to-private transactions.”