Co-Founder Has Left Friedman Fleischer & Lowe

David Lowe has left Friedman Fleischer & Lowe LLC, the San Francisco buyout shop with $2.5 billion under management that he helped establish in the late 1990s, according to several sources.

Lowe’s plans are unclear. He is around 51, based on a 2007 Associated Press article that said he was 47. Through a spokesman, Friedman Fleischer & Lowe declined to comment. Lowe was not immediately available for comment. The firm is currently investing out of its third fund, a $1.5 billion pool of capital raised in 2008.

For the time being, at least, it seems Friedman Fleischer & Lowe will maintain Lowe’s name on its banner. But the firm has removed Lowe’s biography from the investment team page of its Web site. Friedman Fleischer & Lowe has a fairly large staff, with 17 investment professionals and a six-person operating team, according to its Web site; two of the operating partners have been hired since May.

Before co-founding Friedman Fleischer & Lowe, Lowe spent 10 years at ADAC Laboratories, a designer and manufacturer of medical imaging equipment that Royal Philips Electronics bought in 2000, according to Capital IQ. Lowe also previously worked as a consultant at Bain & Co.

Lowe started the firm alongside Tully Friedman, a former managing director at Solomon Brothers who co-founded Hellman & Friedman LLC, another San Francisco-based buyout shop, in 1984; and Spencer Fleischer, a former investment banker at Morgan Stanley & Co.

Friedman Fleischer & Lowe typically invests $50 million to $500 million in mid-market deals across a variety of sectors. On July 20, Friedman Fleischer & Lowe agreed to buy C.H.I. Overhead doors, a manufacturer of garage doors and commercial doors for homeowners, contractors, businesses and other customers, from JLL Partners.

The firm’s portfolio also includes Church’s Chicken, the fast-food chicken restaurant; Kool Smiles, a provider of facilities, support staff and other non-clinical services to dental practices; and Transtar Holdings, a distributor of replacement parts to the automobile transmission repair and remanufacturing market.

A source at one backer said that the firm told LPs around May 2010 that Lowe would be winding down his responsibilities at the firm. It’s unclear why Lowe left, though this LP suggested he wanted to decrease a frenetic workload.

“Do you know David Lowe? The guy works about 200 hours a week,” said the LP, who characterized Friedman Fleischer & Lowe as one of his organization’s top-performing buyout firms. “My sense is he was winding down some of the responsibilities he’d been working on and needed a break.”

Though this LP described Lowe’s departure as “old news” for the firm’s LPs, a source at another LP suggested some investors wanted more details. The latter was surprised when the firm didn’t formally address the change at its annual meeting in May, an avoidance this source described as “weird.” A third source said the firm didn’t feel the need to address the matter at the meeting, as it had already informed LPs.