PE Week Wire: Friday, May 30, 2008

New venture capital firms are not unusual, but this one is: Retiro Venture Partners, a Menlo Park-based shop quietly launched by Larry Mohr and Sal Gutierrez.

Some of you might be wondering: “Who are Larry Mohr and Sal Gutierrez?” The rest are thinking something closer to: “Larry Mohr and Sal Gutierrez? What the [vulgarity deleted]?”

For those in the first group, Mohr helped co-found venerable Mohr Davidow Ventures 25 years ago. He hasn’t been directly involved with MDV since 1995, which corresponds to his general absence from the venture marketplace. He did a handful of angel deals earlier this decade — including LNL Technologies, SeeControl and ViaFone — but seemed past the back nine of his investment career.

Gutierrez’s retirement came much more recently, but was considered just as legit. He left Western Technology Investment at the end of 2007, after 20 years on the job. Before that, he had held finance and marketing positions with Wells Fargo Bank and Imperial Bank.

Those close to MDV and Western Tech said they’ve heard rumors of a pairing, but nothing definitive. I found a regulatory filing indicating that the pair has already raised $18.2 million from investors like Makena Capital, and also located a one-page website. Neither man returned voicemail requests for comment.

Kind of fascinating, particularly given that LPs usually back emerging managers because they exude a “young and hungry” spirit. Larry Mohr and Sal Gutierrez may be lots of great things, but young and hungry are not among them.

*** Speaking of new VC firms, something called EarthRise Capital is attempting to raise $100 million for its debut vehicle. As the name suggests, this is a cleantech effort. Early-stage technologies, rather than later-stage project finance.

The firm’s two principals are Ann Partlow and Jim LoGerfo. Neither have been traditional venture capitalists, but both have extensive experience in the cleantech space. Partlow spent 20 years as a financial advisor and portfolio manager for members of the Rockefeller family. This included management of a the Odyssey Fund, a mission-related vehicle that invested in both public and private companies that addressed key social and environmental issues (including energy and water). LoGerfo is a veteran Wall Street energy analyst, having formed Bank of America’s energy tech I-banking group.

Partlow told me that the firm will probably add a junior investment pro later this year. She declined to discuss fundraising.

*** Gail Long, CEO of ACG Boston, on Infectious Innovation.

*** peHUB First Read, including the un-founder of Gomez Inc. and Permira’s plans for Valentino.

Top Three

Pacific Equity Partners of Australia has agreed to buy U.S. share registry company American Stock Transfer & Trust Co., in a transaction valued at approximately US$1 billion. PEP plans to merge ASTT with existing portfolio company Link Market Services.

EnzymeRx, a Paramus, N.J.-based, has raised $14 million from Pequot Capital Management. It also has acquired worldwide rights (excluding Taiwan) for uricase-PEG 20 from Polaris Pharmaceuticals. PEG 20 is a pegylated form of the enzyme uricase that has previously completed a single dose phase I trial and is being developed for the treatment of refractory gout and tumor lysis syndrome. No financial terms were disclosed for the deal, which provides Polaris Pharma with an equity stake in EnzymeRx. !

Denham Capital Management, a private equity firm focused on the energy and commodities sector, has closed its fifth fund with $2 billion in capital commitments.

VC Deals

AngioSlide Ltd., an Israeli developer of angioplasty devices, has raised $8.6 million in second-round funding. Itochu Corp. led the round, and was joined by return backers Ofer Hi-Tech and Viola. The deal was first reported by Globes Online.

Crossing Automation Inc., a Mountain View, Calif.-based wafer automation company, has raised $6.07 million in additional Series A funding, according to a regulatory filing. Return backers include Tallwood Venture Capital and Intel Capital.

BT Imaging Pty Ltd., an Australia-based maker of inspection tools for solar cell manufacturing, has raised A$3 million in Series A funding. Allen & Buckeridge Venture Capital led the round, and was joined by UniSeed.

Pinch Media, a Hoboken, N.J.-based developer of free tools for iPhone SDK developers, has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding. Backers include Union Square Ventures, First Round Capital, Sharkey Goldstein Capital, Dave Morgan, Jerry Neumann and Mike Yavonditte.

Buyout Deals

Cordova, Smart & Williams and the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group have acquired H2O Plus Inc., a maker of water-based natural skincare products for the face and body. No financial terms were disclosed.

CVC Capital Partners and KKR are among the firms bidding on Chemnet, the chemicals trading unit of Australian explosives maker Orica (AX: ORI). Goldman Sachs is running the process, which is expected to net more than A$600 million.

Goodpack, a listed Singapore maker of bulk containers, has retained Macquarie to advise it on strategic alternatives. This could include a sale or bringing in a new investor.

Hilco Consumer Capital and Gordon Brothers Group won a bankruptcy auction to acquire the assets of retailer Sharper Image Corp. The firms will pay $49 million, plus some contingent recovery for assets.

Permira is not interested in bidding on German utility RWE AG, according to Reuters. There have been market rumors that the firm would participate in a joint offer, alongside Blackstone Group and Berkshire Hathaway.

PE Exits

Bain Capital is selling four million shares of chemical maker Innophos Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq: IPHS), via a secondary public offering. The deal would reducde Bain’s ownership position from 48.3% to 29.1 percent. Bain acquired Innophos in 2004 from Rhodia for $550 million, and brought it public in 2006. It had filed to sell five million shares last year, but later pulled the offering.

PE-Backed M&A

Manhattan Physicians Laboratories, a new clinical lab group formed by former Quest Diagnostics executives, has acquired Genatom Inc., a provider of routine laboratory services for clients in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area. No financial terms were disclosed. MPL has raised more than $20 million from backers like Trevi Health Ventures.

SafeNet Inc., an information security company owned by Vector Capital, has acquired the assets of Beep Science AS, a provider of mobile digital rights management software. No financial terms were disclosed.

Welocalize Inc., a Frederick, Md.–based provider of integrated globalization services, has acquired Transware, a Dublin-based provider of learning, marketing and technical localization solutions. No financial terms were disclosed. Welocalize has raised VC funding from LLR Partners. Transware had raised around $16 million since 2001, from firms like Enterprise Ireland, Trident Capital and Oyster Technology.

Human Resources

Frederick Crawford has been named CEO of turnaround firm AlixPartners. He has been with the firm since 2004, and succeeds Michael Grindfors, who is stepping down for “personal reasons.”

Drummond Hall has joined Duke Street as an operating partner. He is currently deputy chairman of UK pub operator Mitchells & Butlers, and also non-executive director of market information company Taylor Nelson Sofres PLC.

Susan Barlow has joined RREEF Alternative Investments as a managing director and head of global client relations. She most recently co-founded American Value Partners, an institutional real estate fund-of-funds.