Gridiron Capital scores $300M

Gridiron Capital has closed on a $300 million debut fund earmarked for buyouts and add-on deals in manufacturing, services and specialty consumer companies located in North America.

The firm beat its target of $250 million.

Gridiron raised about $100 million before bringing on placement agent Knight Capital Partners in 2006 to raise the rest. The investor base includes a mix of funds of funds, investment banks, endowments and wealthy investors. A number of the LPs have signaled their willingness to co-invest on deals. The firm invests in companies generating EBITDA of between $5 million and $25 million.

Thomas Burger, Donald Cihak and Eugene Conese co-founded the New Canaan, Conn.-based firm in 2005. Burger was previously a managing director at buyout shop RFE Investment Partners and lender Butler Capital Corp. Cihak, who previously worked with Burger at Butler Capital, was an operating partner at Saunders, Karp & Megrue, a middle-market buyout firm. Conese was president of Greenwich Air Services Inc. and, before that, served as president of Haskon Corp., a supplier of silicone rubber seals to the aerospace industry.

The other managing director, Timothy Clark, was formerly a senior investment banker with Stifel Nicolaus.

Both Clark and Burger have sports backgrounds: Clark played professional baseball for the Cincinnati Reds, while Burger played football at Duke University. On the firm’s website, Burger is quoted as saying that “we believe in basic blocking and tackling, teamwork, a common goal, executing a plan and winning in the trenches every day.”

The firm has already completed three platform acquisitions and four add-on purchases. One of its platforms is PAS Technologies, which conducts equipment repairs for aerospace and industrial companies. PAS was an orphaned business within aerospace giant Praxair, Conese said After its purchase, Gridiron made operations more efficient, invested in product development and added to the management team.

The firm knew of the company from Conese’s days heading Greenwich Air Services, which under his leadership became the world’s largest independent provider of repairs, overhauls and maintenance for gas turbine engines.

Gridiron also owns McKenzie Sports Products, a provider of taxidermy supplies for mounting hunting and fishing trophies; and Ramsey Industries, seller of telescopic cranes and winches. —Mark Cecil