Drum maps out expansion in wake of departures

Despite widespread layoffs in the financial services sector, one funds of funds manager is taking applications, thanks to some turnover in the past year.

In May, Drum Capital Management hired Amber Tencic from Pequot Capital Management to serve as the firm’s finance director, and Drum Capital is poised to act on two more senior-level hires in the pipeline.

The distressed-focused firm, based in South Norwalk, Conn., plans to have an 11-person team by the end of July, according to Managing Director Scott Vollmer. And in the coming months, Vollmer and crew expect to launch fund-raising efforts for the firm’s third funds of funds vehicle, which has already received informal commitments from previous limited partners.

Investments from this third effort, Special Situation Partners III, will start immediately after a first close, which Drum Capital aims to hold in July, says a source close to the situation.

The new hires come as Drum Capital, founded in mid-2005, experiences some growing pains. The firm’s second fund, a $435 million pool, closed late last year after coming up short of the $500 million goal; the firm extended its fund-raising deadline by almost a year. Champlain Advisors served as its placement agent and backers included the Nevada System of Higher Education, which committed $10 million.

In addition, the firm lost two executives who were brought on to provide geographic diversity. Managing Director Timothy Ortez left the firm in fall 2007 for a position at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. Hired in April of 2006, Ortez started Drum Capital’s West Coast office in San Bernardino County, Calif. Since his departure, the firm no longer has a West Coast branch.

More recently, Associate Director David J. Marcus left the firm in April after one-and-a-half years. Marcus has since joined Continental Entertainment Capital, a specialty affiliate of Citi that provides financing to the entertainment industry. Marcus was hired from investment manager Bassini Playfair Wright to focus on Drum Capital’s activities in Europe and Asia.

Although Vollmer previously expressed interest in increasing the firm’s Asian presence and had taken steps toward opening an office in India, the firm decided against the move. “That’s not the best direction,” Vollmer said, noting that about 10% of the firm’s investments have exposure overseas.

The departures of Marcus and Ortez leave Vollmer and co-founder Craig White, along with Associate Colin L. Wilson-Murphy. Director Angela Dobrowsky remains on the payroll as a consultant but has shifted her focus away from the firm.

Drum Capital was formed when Vollmer and White left pension fund adviser Pacific Corporate Group, taking along with them PCG’s $350 million Special Situation Partners fund. That fund, closed in 2003, is fully deployed. —Erin Grifith