Former Goya Exec Seeking $150M For Debut Fund

Firm: AUA Private Equity Partners

Fund: AUA Private Equity Fund I LP

Target: $150 million

AUA Private Equity Partners, founded by former Goya Foods Inc.COO Andy Unanue, is seeking $150 million for its debut fund, a source who has seen marketing materials for the fund told Buyouts.

AUA Private Equity, which announced its formation in April, seeks to make equity investments of $15 million to $30 million in lower mid-market companies that are family-owned and/or serve the Hispanic community. Typical target companies will generate a minimum of $3 million of EBITDA to as much as $15 million. Sectors of interest include consumer, business services and media.

In an interview with Buyouts, Unanue said the firm would like to make eight to 10 investments with its first fund, most of which will be majority-stake transactions. The firm is targeting returns of more than a net 20 percent internal rate of return, said Unanue, who declined to discuss the fundraising target. The firm has expressed tentative interest in a few prospects via letters of intent, he said, and it hopes to close its first deals toward the end of the year.

The grandson of Goya Foods’s founders, Unanue had wanted to start a private equity firm back in the late 1990s. But he ended up staying with the family business—one of the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the United States—after his brother Joe died of cancer in 1998 at the age of 41. Unanue became COO of the company in 1999, and in 2004 left Goya to establish a family office.

Unanue said that he started interviewing private equity teams to start a new firm about three or four years ago. This is how he met Steven Flyer and David Benyaminy, as well as vice president Kyce Chihi, who were helping to run CNPE Management, the private equity arm of a family office. Flyer and Benyaminy also previously had been executives with the private equity firm Trimaran Capital Partners, where they had worked on an investment in El Pollo Loco Inc., a chain of fast-food restaurants serving Hispanic-themed dishes.

“They were the best fit for me,” Unanue told Buyouts.

The AUA Private Equity team has executed two investments with backing from third-party investors, and it manages five portfolio companies. They include Brighter Dental Solutions LLC, a dental practice management company in New Jersey; Two-Twenty Records Management LLC, which provides archiving of documents, tapes and other media; and eSchool Data LLC, a Web-based service designed to track student enrollments, attendance and other information.

AUA Private Equity joins a handful of other firms such as Palladium Equity Partners—which is seeking $800 million for its fourth fund, as sister Web site peHub reported in June—that target companies serving the fast-growing Hispanic population in the United States. The United States has the third-largest Latino economy behind Brazil and Mexico, according to Flyer.