Cypress Brings On Rittenmeyer –

In the midst of a fundraising drive, the Cypress Group has bolstered its staff, bringing on board Ronald Rittenmeyer as a managing director.

Rittenmeyer comes to Cypress from Safety Kleen, where he had served as chairman, president and chief executive. When he left the company in July of last year, Rittenmeyer had done so with the intention of retiring. Instead, a meeting with Cypress President James Singleton helped put off any golf plans for the time being. “When I finished with Safety Kleen, the thinking was that I would retire and serve on a few boards, or something along those lines,” Rittenmeyer said. “But I had met Jamie many years ago and we stayed in touch.”

Rittenmeyer has developed a reputation as somewhat of a hired gun, and the past couple of years he moved around from a number of upper management posts where he helped orchestrate turnarounds for troubled companies. From 1995 to 1998, Rittenmeyer held the position of chief operating officer at both Merisel, a tech company, and truck rental outfit Ryder TRS, with a short stop at turnaround firm Jay Alix & Associates in between.

In 1998, Rittenmeyer took on his first chief executive position at railroad operator Railtex. He moved on to the same role at AmeriServe, a food services company, two years later, and after one year there, he left and took on the same title at Safety Kleen.

“It certainly hasn’t been boring… It’s given me a totally different perspective on business, and allows me to realize that a lot of the issues in [troubled companies] are common across many situations and industries,” Rittenmeyer said.

At Cypress, Rittenmeyer’s job description primarily concentrates on his oversight of the firm’s portfolio, but he will also be relied on to source investments in the industrial sector as well as contribute to the due diligence.

And while Rittenmeyer clearly has a history in tackling distressed opportunities, he maintains that in his role at Cypress, he was not brought on to fix anything in particular. “In every portfolio there are opportunities for improvement. There’s always at least one, but I was not brought on with a specific situation in mind.”

Rather, Rittenmeyer says, his work in turnarounds has simply crystallized his approach to management regardless of situation. “When you work in distressed situations, it really allows you to sharpen your skills, because in that environment, your runway is a lot shorter… In terms of decision making, it makes you more focused in your ability to draw conclusions and enhances the ability to rely on your teams. It tests what you think you know and tests what you think you’re good at. It gives the sense of, I’ve been there before. I’ve seen that movie,” he says.

Rittenmeyer noted that this is his first time actually being on the payroll of a private equity firm, but he said, as part of management, he has worked under different groups in the past and has enjoyed the experience. He wouldn’t disclose any of the firms he has worked under, but his stay at Ryder TRS came during a time the company was owned by Questor Management while DLJ Merchant Banking Partners had invested in AmeriServe prior to Rittenmeyer’s arrival there. Meanwhile, according to Venture Economics, Oak Hill Capital Management made an investment in Safety Kleen in 2001.

The appointment comes at a busy time for Cypress. While both Rittenmeyer and two PR representatives for the firm eschewed any questions on the subject, a number of media outlets have already reported that the firm is out raising its third fund, purportedly looking for around $2.5 billion. The firm has also reportedly engaged Goldman, Sachs & Co. and has informally arranged a “warehousing” agreement with the firm in which Cypress will source investments for Goldman and then gain entry into the deals once its new fund is raised. The PR reps would neither confirm nor deny these reports.