Fulham Angles For More Capital –

In 2003, Fulham & Co. wrapped up its first institutional fund. Prior to that, the firm, which has been making private equity investments for just over two decades, operated on a deal-by-deal basis, investing primarily in the manufacturing space. While the firm may have thought the institutional fund would allow it a rest from raising capital, less than two years after closing its inaugural fund, the firm again finds itself in the market. Fulham is currently raising its follow-up investment vehicle, the $150 million targeted Fulham Investors II, LP.

The Fulham family is perhaps best known in New England for its fishing background. The family’s primary business, going back to 1917, included the operation of fishing vessels, fish processing and packaging facilities, and the distribution of frozen and prepared seafood. The separate businesses were slowly divested, with the frozen seafood unit merging with Gorton’s of Gloucester in the mid-1960s and subsequent sales of the other divisions occurring in the 1970s and 1980s.

As the sales of the fishing businesses took place, the Fulham name slowly transitioned away from seafood. John Fulham Jr., in 1969, founded Fulham & Co., which at its launch started as an investment banking boutique. The new company found success providing financial advice to family-owned businesses in need of capital.

By the mid-1980s, Fulham & Co., still family-run, transitioned again. This time the firm engaged itself in the buying of companies, and was ultimately among the first movers into the buyouts space. Today, the Wellesley Mass.-based Fulham & Co. is pure private equity and serves the market as a niche player in the small to mid-market manufacturing field, specifically targeting the branded or highly engineered product makers.

The group’s Website said that it targets businesses with sales of between $10 million and $30 million, while past news reports gave a range of $10 million to $40 million as its typical enterprise value size.

Among its current investments, Fulham owns metal fabrication outfit Metal Tronics, tube-cutting machinery maker Haven Manufacturing, tokens manufacturer Roger Williams Mint, and communication support systems maker Chief Manufacturing.

While the firm’s investments are probably not recognizable to the everyday consumer, Fulham’s limited partner base is said to include some of the more notable brand-name LPs. Fulham’s new fund, which set a minimum investment floor of $5 million, has already attracted $112 million in commitments. Sources close to the firm have divulged that five college endowments among the 20 largest in size are current investors in the firm’s first fund.

When asked what attracted so many large endowments to a seemingly unsung firm, the source first noted that Fulham’s historical returns were a natural appeal, but equally important was the makeup of the management team, which still maintains three Fulhams on the seven-man roster, according to the firm’s Website.

“There are very few groups out there that have the operations skills of this group,” the source said. “That’s the essence of it. They’re very good at what they do and give investors exposure to a niche strategy in the small market.”

The source anticipates Fulham will reach its target in the ensuing months, and will likely surpass the stated goal.

As with Fulham’s first fund, Benedetto, Gartland & Co. is again representing Fulham as placement agent, according to Form D filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.