Investment bank Perseus becomes Savvian: Firm changes name as it expands into new markets

Perseus Group, the middle market investment bank in San Francisco, announced this month that it has changed it name to Savvian on the heels of its buyout from parent company Perseus LLC, an 11-year-old merchant bank and private equity fund management company from the East Coast.

Savvian Managing Director Mark McInerney – who, along with the firm’s eight other managing directors, completed the management buyout late last year – said the two sides are not disclosing the purchase price.

Savvian is more than changing names, however. The firm hired Chris O’Brien in late 2005 to launch an asset management arm under the Savvian umbrella. The unit will invest in “buyout stuff,” says McInerney. “And it could do later-stage deals. I don’t think we’ll be looking at earlier-stage deals.”

McInerney says that “it isn’t clear” when Savvian will begin fund-raising for its asset management business, and the firm has not disclosed a fund target.

O’Brien came to Savvian after a career in private equity that include a stint at Bass Brothers Enterprises, which is run by three sons who turned their inherited Texas oil fortune into an investment firm. O’Brien also worked at the investment bank Robertson Stephens, where he reported to Todd Carter, who co-founded Savvian and now serves as its CEO.

Savvian changed its name – with the help of business, brand, and design consultancy Addis – to avoid customer confusion with parent company Perseus as Savvian kick starts its private equity investing. “We wanted to have our own identity,” McInerney says. (Likewise, Perseus-Soros Management – which invested in a biopharmaceutical fund for Perseus and Soros Private Equity Partners – similarly moved away from Perseus and has morphed into an independent firm called Aisling Capital, which has secured $550 million for a new fund.)

McInerney and Savvian managing director Steven Fletcher say that its investing mandate is not going to change with the new name. The bank will continue to focus on growth companies in tech, media, telecom, health care and consumer industries.

The investment banking practice and asset management group – which O’Brien is expected to grow – will remain separate.

Both divisions are expected to grow this year. O’Brien will be hiring his own team, says McInerney. Meanwhile, Savvian has hired another investment banker, Curtis Smith, from First Albany, who will focus on software deals.

Savvian, formed in 2003, has already taken part in a number of high-profile deals. Last year, Savvian handled the $475 million initial capitalization for the partnership between Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures that was named the media industry’s 2005 deal of the year by Investment Dealers Digest. Legendary Pictures is already becoming a producing powerhouse in Hollywood, as it’s funding half of “Superman Returns.”

Last year, Savvian also advised on the sales of two companies to News Corp.: the online video game company IGN Entertainment, which sold for $650 million in cash, and Scout Media, which sold for $50 million.

This year, Savvian – which has also worked with a long list of advertising startups, such as whenU, Adteractive, FastClick and – will likely work even more closely with Hollywood, says Fletcher.