As even some of the more successful ventures of the dotcom craze fall on hard times, professionals are realizing that private equity firms are where the heart is. A. Bruce Johnston, who served as a managing director, then president, of idealab! Boston since 1999, September 13 returned to his LBO and VC alma mater, TA Associates.
“Those were heady times and I had what seemed to be a great opportunity to start the Boston office and then get into more late-stage and M&A work,” said Johnston. “The first part happened, but the second part never did.”
Johnston originally joined TA Associates in 1992 where he continued until September of 1999. That month he joined idealab! Boston as a managing director, and was promoted to president of the group last year.
At TA Associates, Johnston’s work will mainly focus on leveraged buyouts and recapitalizations in the firm’s specialty, the technology sector. “The firm is well positioned,” said Johnston. “There’s tremendous turmoil, especially in technology, but ultimately turmoil creates opportunity. And TA has experience that will help it capitalize on those opportunities.”
Johnston credits TA Associate’s positioning in the market, as well as the “great group of people”, for his interest in returning to the firm.
Additionally, Johnston believes in the TA Associates approach to the marketplace. “Our strategy is one of being very supportive to management, working actively to add value, especially as we look at a lot of divisions that are spinning our of technology companies,” he said. “It’s really a combination of that approach and the experience and capital in an environment where cash is king that makes a tremendous opportunity in the long term.”
Though happy to be returning to TA, where he maintained close ties to the partners, Johnston expressed no regrets about his original departure. Johnston said that his experiences with idealab! Boston will likely make him a more effective manager in the future. “I learned a lot about people and people management,” he said. “It was a dynamic time where we had quick growth and then shortly after we had restructuring . . . I learned as much or more in those two years than in any other two years,” he said.
TA Associates has offices in Boston, Menlo Park and Pittsburgh. The firm last month purchased a majority stake in Ixion Technologies, a semi-conductor packaging manufacturer, for $40 million. The firm financed the acquisition without leverage, using equity from the $2 billion fund TA IX and a companion fund.