Buyouts’ Off-duty provides a snapshot of top investors, including a few details about what they do when not chasing deals.
The story of Andrew Nikou’s founding of OpenGate Capital is often recounted.
A former Platinum Equity executive, Nikou opened Open Gate’s doors in 2005 with $30,000 of his own money. He began not by raising a fund but by leading bootstrapped deals, the earliest of them done during the financial crisis, “the best university anyone could ever go through,” he told Buyouts. They included the $1 purchase of the underperforming TV Guide magazine from Rovi, later restored to profitability and sold in 2015.
OpenGate, a transatlantic private equity firm that acquires and optimizes mid-market companies in industrials, technology, consumer and business services sectors, has since closed 40 platform investments.
Outside of work, Nikou is an active philanthropist.
The Andrew Nikou Foundation, created in 2016, has pushed innovative approaches to education, illustrated in last year’s seed financing of financial literacy startup Goalswell. It also in 2021 backed the launch of IncludrPod, a digital media hub that promotes the everyday practice of diversity and inclusion.
Where is your hometown?
I was born in Vancouver, Canada, but my father brought us to the US in the early 1980s. In California we settled in the San Fernando Valley, although there were subsequent moves for the family once college rolled around.
If you weren’t in PE, what job would you like to have?
Once upon a time, I might have said politics. I have a real passion for contributing to positive change in my community. But I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to create that change in other ways – through my foundation, for example, which is committed to lifting up those who feel disconnected and marginalized, feelings I relate to from my own upbringing. Maybe one day, a long time from now, I’ll become a rancher in Montana.
How do you relax when you’re not working?
Spending time with my family. I’ve got three kids under the age of eight, so our household is always full of activity. I also enjoy golf and that can be relaxing – when I’m playing well, that is.
What book are you reading right now?
Emotional Shorthand by my friend D. Earl Johnston. It’s a wonderful collection of life insights from the world’s top leaders, thinkers and professionals, both past and present.
What is your favorite song, album, performer or music genre?
One of my favorite songs is “Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force. It immediately lightens my day.
What is your favorite destination for vacation, sanctuary or a place to explore?
Paris. We set up an OpenGate office there about 17 years ago now, which has enabled us to develop an expertise in transatlantic deals. After we established that office, I quickly fell in love with the city.
Who in your career do you regard as a mentor?
My father. He showed up to work every morning at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to provide for us and taught me the principles of hard work and a sense of community. And he walked the walk. “Good thoughts, good words, good deeds,” he would say. I carry that piece of timeless wisdom with me every day.
Professionally, what was your toughest moment?
The early days of OpenGate were the toughest. Not because they were grueling or that things were uncertain – that’s par for the course when you try to start something from nothing. Rather, they were challenging because we knew we had an approach that would work, a recipe for success, but we had to be patient and earn our stripes in the market. It was difficult, but it was also a lot of fun.
What was your most rewarding moment?
Just as the early days were at times challenging, seeing our strategy materialize has been incredibly rewarding. Our transatlantic firm has grown by leaps and bounds – we’ve brought in some of the most talented people in the industry and we’ve built a stronger and more meaningful portfolio of businesses across Europe and North America.
What PE buzz words or jargon do you hate most?
What advice would you give a young person interested in a PE career?
First of all, you’ve got to love what you do. Then, find your strengths and aim to be a problem-solver. From there, press ahead and never, never, never give up.
What word or phrase best describes you?
Full throttle: Kobe Bryant’s Mamba mentality, which ultimately means focusing on the process and trusting in the hard work when it matters most, as well as passion, obsession, relentlessness, resiliency and fearlessness.