Ex-NHL goalie Richter shoots for green deals

Mike Richter, an idol to fans of the New York Rangers, aims to repeat his success in the private equity market.

Richter is part of Environmental Capital Partners, a New York-based firm that has launched to focus on middle-market opportunities in the “green” space. The firm focuses on green consumer products, eco-friendly building materials, alternative energy and industrial environmental services. Environmental Capital recently raised a $100 million cornerstone commitment from New York Private Bank & Trust for its inaugural fund and is planning to raise an additional $100 million from other limited partners. Its typical transaction will require an equity investment of between $10 million and $25 million.

A firm spokesperson said that deal flow is strong and the firm expects to close two or three deals per year, though at this time, there’s no timeline for when the firm will announce its first deal.

“Someone will make an absolute fortune with more speculative, or early stage, opportunities, but we didn’t want to be VC-oriented,” Richter says. “We wanted to go further down the chain for more day-to-day things that overlay our lives, like a furniture-making process that uses less energy than normal.”

Richter, who wore No. 35, played in the National Hockey League for 15 years, all with the Rangers, until his retirement in 2003 as the all-time winningest goaltender in franchise history. He joins a growing list of ex-pro athletes who have entered some segment of the private equity market, such as John Hummer, Harris Barton, Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana and Steve Young (who is leaving Sorenson Capital, see story, page 3). It would be easy to dismiss this as an ego play, but Richter is sincere about his environmental commitments.

He says that he spent much of his hockey downtime reading nonfiction environmental works, including books by environmentalists Bill McKibbon and Paul Hawken. After Richter retired, he enrolled in Yale University through the Eli Whitney Students Program. There, he met Stephen Kellert, a professor of social ecology in Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

through Kellert, Richter met William Staudt, a veteran private equity pro who was forming a new private equity firm focused on green investments in the middle-markets. Staudt, who leads Environmental Capital as managing partner, signed up Richter and Kellert as partners. The team also includes Managing Partner Robert Egan (former senior advisor to JPMorgan Partners and founding partner of Chase Capital) and principal Chris Staudt (former senior associate with the Argentum Group).

“I’m not quick to jump on things, and am pretty selfish with where I put my time and energies,” says Richter, a frequent speaker at environmental events. “But I felt this was an opportunity to continue focusing on environmentalism and to learn the business aspect of it.”

Richter says that his personal reputation should be a net positive in terms of getting the firm’s foot into certain doors, but he cautions that the celebrity factor will only take them so far, particularly in terms of deals outside of the Tri-State area.