It has been said that variety is the spice of life. Taking this to heart throughout his professional life, Tony Roscigno, partner at private equity firm Landmark Partners, has dabbled in nearly every area of private equity while making his mark from the golf course to the boardroom.
Before he even completed his B.S. in accounting, Roscigno fulfilled his childhood dream by starting his career as a professional golfer. Playing alongside some of the sport’s greats, he learned one of the crucial skills of private equity investing – building relationships.
“I got exposed to a lot of people – a lot of famous and wealthy folks who are obviously good golfers, but are also good investors,” says Roscigno. “And I still have a lot of those relationships.”
So, when his five-year tenure on the greens ended, he made the transition into business.
Roscigno began his private equity career in 1985 under the wing of Thomas Judge, who led venture capital investing at AT&T Investment Management Corp., where Roscigno came on board as a manager of investments and later became vice president. The investment subsidiary of AT&T managed all of the employee benefit plans for the corporation, including pension funds and 401K plans. Despite its affiliation with AT&T Corp., Roscigno was spared much of the corporate restraints within the group’s 40-person team.
“Although we were a small group in a subsidiary of the company, you’re still subject to a lot of the corporate structure,” he says. “But the nice thing about that is they started compensating people not based on what corporations pay, but what was comparable out in the private equity world and Wall Street’s world.”
Roscigno was primarily responsible for investing venture capital in partnerships and direct co-investments for AT&T’s pension fund, and he continued in that role for 10 years. Then things suddenly got a little choppy.
In 1995, as AT&T underwent major reconstruction, it began divesting some of its assets to Lucent Technologies and NCR. As a result of the breakup, Lucent acquired a piece of the company along with approximately two-thirds of the pension fund. At that time the private equity group, which then consisted of 11 professionals, lost six members to other firms, including Roscigno and Judge. The remaining individuals eventually moved to J.P. Morgan & Co.
The decision to leave AT&T originated more through a series of coincidences rather than a desire to leave the transitioning company. Roscigno, who admits at the time he wasn’t even aware of Landmark Partners nor looking for a new job, happened upon the opportunity through his work with the Investment Management Corp.
“AT&T was invested with just about everybody on the planet, and I was actually in London doing due diligence on a new investment, and Landmark Partners was a reference for the partnership I was looking at,” he says. “I happened to call one of my partners-to-be, John Griner, a managing partner at Landmark, as a reference check and he said you know, Tony, if you ever come to Connecticut you should stop by and visit.'”
Coincidentally, Landmark Partners’ main offices, located in Simsbury, Conn., are just 20 minutes from where Roscigno’s wife was born and raised – a place he visits quite often. Three or four months later, Roscigno called Griner to let him know he’d be in the neighborhood.
“I had a nice meeting with him, and told him what was going on at AT&T,” he says. “I wasn’t looking for a job at the time, I just came more to introduce myself. He called me back after we met within two weeks’ time and said, Gee, would you like to come work for Landmark?’ and I said, sure’.”
After meeting with the rest of the Landmark team, Roscigno signed up as a vice president.
A Pinnacle Decision
Landmark Partners, which was founded in 1984 as a venture capital company, originally made direct investments in early-stage VC companies in the Northeast. The firm, which is now known mainly for its secondary investments, kicked off its secondary activity in 1989 with the $100 million acquisition of Cigna Insurance Co.’s portfolio – the first institutional secondary transaction in the private equity market. Landmark is also active with a fund-of-funds product, a co-investment program and a secondary acquisition strategy in real estate.
When Roscigno joined in 1995, his first assignment was to invest the $300 million Landmark Equity Partners V, a secondary partnership for investments in venture capital assets that had just closed. “When I joined we were only 19 people and three partners,” says Roscigno. “There definitely was the transition from a corporation to a more entrepreneurial environment and that was something that was very attractive to me.”
Roscigno, who was promoted to partner in 1997, has managed to get his hands in all the pots at Landmark. “I’m really involved in all aspects [of the business],” he says. “Although I spend the majority of my time on secondaries, I am on some advisory boards for fund investments that we’ve made . . . I do co-investments as well. Most of [my work] has been investment related. I’m involved in pretty much everything that goes on.”
Roscigno says he spends most of his workday on new transactions, deal analysis, valuation and deal origination. And like most buyout pros, he spends a good deal of time on planes – approximately 40% of his time traveling on due diligence, attending board meetings and speaking at conferences.
Indeed Landmark Partners has had little down time since its founding. The firm has grown to 34 people and nine partners, and its family of funds is flourishing tallying 11 partnerships with $2.8 billion in committed capital. Landmark Private Equity Fund IX, a $410 million fund, is currently 90% invested – with $350 million going to secondaries and the balance going to fund investments and direct co-investments. The $500 million Fund X is already on deck with $350 million in commitments. That fund is expected to close before the end of the year.
If that wasn’t enough, the firm is also raising two real estate funds to invest separately in secondary investments and direct investments. And finally Landmark Growth Capital, a $250 million partnership, is being raised to focus on the Taft-Hartley pension community and the labor union funds, says Roscigno.
“The investment strategy is a labor-friendly strategy . . . where we would invest in companies that are union friendly but also increase jobs and the union work force,” he says. “So it’s very much a growth oriented strategy where the No. 1 priority is obviously a return, but the second priority is job growth.” The fund is expected to close before the end of the month.
It’s a Small World
As it turns out, the golf course isn’t all that different from the private equity marketplace. Roscigno found that in both places there are plenty of relationships to be made. “Private equity is very much a people business and it’s very relationship driven. It’s not always the person who brings the most money to the table, it’s the person who has a good relationship who always does very well in private equity. I’ve always tried to keep that in mind . . . I always pride myself on the relationships that I have with the people in this industry and that’s something that I always focus on.”
He names Tom Judge and John Griner as the two most influential people in his private equity life. “John and Tom are very similar, in that I think I’ve adopted a lot of what they taught me,” he says.
The New Jersey native, now residing in Connecticut with his wife and two daughters, hopes that one day he will take on a similar role for the next generation of private equity pros. And as Landmark is seeing a surge of new talent and the gradual retirements of some of their senior partners, Roscigno will likely have the opportunity to do just that. “We’ve got a lot of good young people here and over the next 10 years, I see myself in more of a mentor-type position where I can help bring the young people along and keep them with [Landmark] just like the folks here are doing right now. We’re in the midst of a generational change here . . . so part of my responsibilities is to make sure the next round of transitions is in place.