Mass. Shop Taps Strategic Buyer For First Exit

Sponsor: Sodexo Inc.

Seller: Webster Capital

Legal Adviser: Sponsor: Davis Polk & Wardwell; Seller: Goodwin Procter LLP

Webster Capital, a Waltham, Mass., mid-market buyout shop investing out of its debut fund, scored a solid return on an unsolicited offer from a major strategic buyer for its first complete exit.

The firm made 2.5x its equity and generated 55 percent gross IRR when it sold CK Franchising Inc. to Sodexo Inc., the food and facility management company. Founded in 1998, the Dayton, Ohio-based company operates a franchise network of more than 550 locations of Comfort Keepers, which provide non-medical in-home care such as housekeeping, meal preparation, dressing and grooming, and companionship. “It’s a very strong start for the fund,” said David Malm, a managing director with the firm, referring to Webster Capital II, the shop’s first institutional fund, which closed at $205 million in 2007. “It positions us well, and it’s very nice to get your partners some money at a time when distributions are few and far between.”

The exit for Webster is all the more impressive considering the firm only owned the company for two years, investing $12.5 million in July 2007. Allied Capital Corp. supplied $44.3 million of debt for the original deal as well as some equity. Further, Webster did not shop the company. Sodexo approached the firm unsolicited in November 2008, and, after a lengthy due diligence, the two parties worked out a deal without any bankers involved.

Malm declined to discuss the details of how Webster improved the company to put it in a position to attract the likes of Sodexo, other than to say the company’s EBITDA improved significantly under the firm’s ownership.

CK Franchising was also the first major deal for the Webster fund, which is now about 37 percent invested, Malm said. On the acquisition side, Malm said the shop is looking at a number of deals but in general there is a dearth of opportunities because of economic conditions.

Founded in 2002, Webster targets companies with revenue of between $20 million and $100 million and EBITDA of between $2 million and $15 million on an annual basis. Sectors of interest include branded consumer, business-to-business, health care and business products and services.