Cribiore’s Departure Leaves Brera Focused On Exits

The departure of Alberto Cribiore from Brera Capital Partners on Sept. 4 confirms the long-inactive firm won’t be raising a second fund. “We’re focused on what we should be at this point in the fund’s life—liquidity events,” said Partner W. Dana LaForge, who is assuming control of day-to-day operations.

Brera Capital raised a debut fund of $680 million in 1998, and LaForge said that New York-based firm has received an extension of the 10-year investment period through 2009 from its limited partners so that it’s not under the gun to dismantle its portfolio too quickly. “We have the support and confidence of the LPs,” LaForge said. “There’s been no change. We’re doing what they would expect, considering the fund’s vintage.”

Cribiore formed New York-based Brera Capital in 1997 after a 12-year stint at Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, where he was co-president. He is leaving the managing partner post at the firm to join Citigroup as vice chairman of that company’s institutional clients group. He will continue to function as Brera Capital’s non-executive chairman.

There have been no exits from the five-company Fund I portfolio as yet, only recapitalizations that led to undisclosed dividend payments for the LPs; companies that remain in the portfolio include 2-10 Home Buyers Warranty, GAB Robins North America, Italtel and Western Industries. LaForge declined comment on the timing of any potential deals, saying only that the firm is acting “as quickly as possible.”

Brera Capital’s last deal was the acquisition of 2-10 Home Buyers Warranty, a Denver provider of home warranty and service contracts, in November 2002. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. The firm secured a 90 percent stake in Parsippany, N.J.-based GAB Robins, an insurance loss adjustment and claims administration services company, from Switzerland’s Societe Generale de Surveillance in late 1999. Financial terms of that deal also weren’t disclosed.

Brera Capital was a small player in the acquisition of a majority stake in Italtel, a telecommunications systems supplier headquartered in Milan, Italy, for roughly €1 billion ($1.4 billion) from Telecom Italia. In that transaction, which was announced in December 2000, Brera Capital was part of a investment group led by Cribiore’s previous employer Clayton, Dubilier & Rice. The group also included Advent International and tech giant Cisco Systems. The plan then was to take Italtel public but the offering has been delayed repeatedly, most recently in mid-2006, with the company citing adverse market conditions. According to Italtel’s 2007 annual report, Brera Capital owned a 2.16 percent stake in the company, as of Dec. 31.

The firm also bought a 50 percent stake in Western Industries, a Milwaukee-based maker of plastic and metal products, in March 1999. Graham Group, a York, Penn.-based investment firm, purchased the other half of the business at that time. No terms were disclosed.

Brera Capital’s only other platform investment would appear to be an inauspicious one. The firm, along with a co-investor group, bought a controlling stake in Classic Communications in July 1999. It initially invested $100 million in the Austin, Texas, cable television operator, receiving 64.4 percent of the company.

The acquisitive Classic—it bought Buford Group and Star Cable around this time—then went public in December 1999, selling 7.25 million shares at $25 each to raise more than $180 million. Around a year after the IPO, the company began to show some cracks, experiencing a management shake-up before delaying its quarterly filings in April 2001 to amend certain credit agreements with its senior lending group. At that time, it reported that operating expenses had swelled 60 percent in 2000 to $75.3 million, outstripping revenue of $67.9 million. Finally, in November 2001, Classic filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Prior to the Citigroup appointment, Cribiore was part of Merrill Lynch & Co.’s board, which he joined in June 2003. His biggest moment with Merrill Lynch came after Stan O’Neal retired from the company in October 2007. Cribiore was named interim non-executive chairman at that time and he led the search committee that eventually settled on John Thain for the chairman and CEO roles a month later. Cribiore resigned from Merrill Lynch’s board as part of his acceptance of the Citigroup post.

LaForge joined Brera Capital in December 2006. His prior experience includes more than 20 years with Deutsche Bank. In July 2002, he founded Colonnade Financial Group, a secondary direct private equity firm.