Mike Richter: From Rangers Blue To LBOs Green

Mike Richter is an eternal idol to the hockey fans of the New York Rangers and the United States national team. Now he wants to repeat his success in the private equity arena.

Richter, who won the Stanley Cup in 1994 as the goalie for the Rangers, has helped launch Environmental Capital Partners, a new shop based in New York that will focus on middle-market opportunities in the “green” space—eco-friendly consumer products, building materials, alternative energy and industrial environmental services.

Environmental Capital recently secured a $100 million cornerstone commitment from New York Private Bank & Trust, and it plans to raise an additional $100 million from other limited partners. Figure a typical transaction to require an equity investment of between $10 million and $25 million.

“Someone will make an absolute fortune with more speculative, or early-stage, opportunities, but we didn’t want to be VC-oriented,” Richter told Buyouts. “We wanted to go further down the chain for more day-to-day things that overlay our lives like, say, a furniture-making process that uses less energy than normal.”

Richter joins a growing list of ex-pro athletes who have entered some segment of the private equity market, including John Hummer, Harris Barton, Ronnie Lott and Steve Young. (Joe Montana tried his hand, but later left.) It would be easy to dismiss this as a vanity or ego play, but Richter appears sincere in both words and action.

Richter said that he spent much of his hockey downtime reading nonfiction environmental books, including those by green-business gurus Bill McKibbon and Paul Hawken. After retiring following the 2003 hockey season, he enrolled in Yale University through the Eli Whitney Students Program. There, he met Dr. Stephen Kellert, a noted professor of social ecology in Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

It was through Kellert that Richter eventually hooked up with William Staudt, a veteran private equity pro who had recently led a majority investment in Environmental Quality Management Inc. Staudt was forming a new green-oriented private equity firm focused on the middle market, and he eventually signed up both Richter and Kellert.

“I’m not quick to jump on things, and am pretty selfish with where I put my time and energies,” Richter said. “But I felt this was an opportunity to continue focusing on environmentalism and to learn the business aspect of it.”

He acknowledged that his personal reputation—which includes a silver medal in the 2002 Olympics—should help get ECP’s foot into certain doors. But he cautioned that the celebrity factor will only take the firm so far, particularly when seeking deals outside the New York area.

In addition to Staudt, a managing partner, Kellert and Richter, the ECP roster includes Managing Partner Robert Egan, a former senior advisor to JPMorgan Partners and a founding partner of Chase Capital, and principal Chris Staudt, a former senior associate with the Argentum Group.