New FoF marches ahead as fund-raising drops

Four former principal investors of Knightsbridge Advisors, a fund-of-funds focused on U.S. venture capital, have resurfaced to launch a new fund-of-funds, according to a regulatory filing.

Managing Principals Judith Elsea, Tim Bliamptis and Brad Hammond and Principal Sandra Wallis are co-founders of Weathergage Venture Capital Management Partners. Each of the investors had worked at least five years at Knightsbridge before they left sometime after June 2006 to launch the new FoF, which presumably will invest in VC funds.

San Francisco-based Weathergage is looking to raise $200 million for its first fund, called Weathergage Venture Capital, according to regulatory filings. No other details about the fund were available.

The news of Weathergage comes as fund-raising fell last year for funds-of-funds. In 2006, 77 fund-of-funds raised almost $21 billion during 2006, a 15% drop down from the 94 funds that raised $24.5 billion during 2005, according to Thomson Financial (publisher of PE Week).

Meanwhile, a slump in fund-raising isn’t the only issue affecting the asset class. Funds-of-funds managers face the likelihood of getting booted from top-notch VC limited partner slots, as Sequoia Capital did to funds-of-funds looking to get into the firm’s 12th fund. The word, according to sources, was that Sequoia was unhappy about some FoFs that used the Sequoia brand to market their own funds to investors and, in essence, made Sequoia compete with itself.

FoFs that were Sequoia LPs, but are not believed to have returned for fund XII, include Champion Ventures, Flag Venture Partners and HarbourVest Partners. It was unclear if Sequoia allowed Northgate Capital, the Danville, Calif.-based investment firm founded by former San Francisco 49ers, to invest in its 12th fund, which raised about $430 million last year.

Still, Weathergage’s partners have no dearth of experience. Bliamptis co-lead Brinson Partners and managed a $10 billion alternative asset portfolio before joining Knightsbridge. Elsea was previously the chief investment officer of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation for eight years, where she managed a $2 billion portfolio. Hammond was a lawyer at Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati and made partner at Oklahoma law firm Crowe & Dunlevy.

Joel Romines, the founder of Knightsbridge and the only managing principal to remain when the Weathergage team bolted, moved fast to fill the holes in his team. He hired Barbara Piette in September as a managing principal. Piette joined from Blackwood Capital, where she was a president and had worked since 2000.

Weathergage is the second new fund-of-funds to come to light in recent weeks. Last week, PE Week reported about the launch of Vedanta Venture Capital, a New York-based private equity fund-of-funds. The firm has previously filed to raise up to $300 million from investors, though a recent regulatory filing lists its initial target as $27.75 million. Vedanta was co-founded by three departees of Invesco Private Capital, including noted VC Parag Saxena.