PE Week Wire: Friday, October 24, 2008

The collective you likes Barack Obama. You really, really like him (well, at least in comparison to John McCain).

Over 2,200 readers participated in our final presidential poll before the election, and Obama topped McCain by a margin of 54% to 35 percent. This is a massive jump from our prior poll in July, when Obama led just 41% to 40% among decided readers, and 50% to 48% when leaners were included (leaners this time split evenly).

It is also a much wider gap than we saw back in 2004, when readers narrowly picked George Bush over John Kerry (note: yesterday’s reader sample favored Kerry in that election by 2 percentage points).

Before getting into the nitty-gritty, let me stress that this poll is totally unscientific. It’s a self-selected snapshot of Wire/peHUB readers who, on average are: Men between the ages of 18-49, who make between $100,000 and $350,000 per year and who live in major metropolitan areas. But, to reiterate, we polled the same demographic back in July, and it was much, much closer.

Here are some results:

How would you describe your party affiliation:

• Democrat (24%)

• Republican (24%)

• Lean Democrat (14%)

• Lean Republican (16%)

• Independent (21%)

• Other (2%)

Is your decision partially based on which candidate you believe would be better for your industry:

• Yes (38%)

• No (62%)

What do you think is the single most important issue facing the next president?

• Economy (75%) – Note: Only 55% picked Economy in July poll.

• Education (3%)

• Environment (2%)

• Foreign policy, including Iraq/Afghanistan (17%)

• Healthcare (3%)

• Homeland security (3%)

• Social issues, including abortion (1%)

• Social security/Medicare (2%)

• Other (3%)

Who did you vote for in 2004?

• George W. Bush (45%)

• John Kerry (47%)

• Other (8%)

My guess is that neither presidential candidate wants to be known for being the favorite of private equity pros, so perhaps this is a double-edged sword for Obama. And this poll includes remarkably few plumbers. On the other hand, it jives with national polling trends, and may indicate an early night’s sleep for all on November 4…

Back to real business on Monday. Until then, have a great weekend.

Top Three

Carousel Capital has acquired both Driven Brands Inc. and Maaco Franchising Inc. for an undisclosed amount. Senior debt financing was provided by GE Antares, CapitalSource Finance, Golub Capital and Wachovia, while Gleacher Mezzanine and Allied Capital provided sub debt. Driven Brands is the parent company of Meineke Car Care Centers, Econo Lube N’ Tune, AutoQual, Aero Colours, Drive N Style and Maaco provides franchised auto body repair and painting.

Jupitermedia Corp. (Nasdaq: JUPM) has agreed to sell its online images business to Getty Images Inc. for $96 million in cash. Hellman & Friedman took Getty private earlier this year for $2.3 billion.

Phenomix Corp. has signed a collaboration deal with Forest Laboratories Inc. (NYSE: FRX), to develop and commercialize dutogliptin, Phenomix’ orally-administered DPP-4 inhibitor that is currently undergoing Phase 3 clinical trials in Type 2 diabetes mellitus. The entire deal could be worth $340 million for Phenomix, including a $75 million up-front cash payment. San Diego-based Phenomix earlier this week canceled an IPO, and has raised around $125 million in total VC funding since its 2001 founding, from firms like JPMorgan Partners, Nomura Phase4 Ventures, Delphi Ventures, Alta Partners, Sofinnova Ventures, Novartis BioVenture Fund, Baker Brothers, Bay City Capital, CMEA Ventures and GBS Venture Partners.

VC Deals

VBrick Systems Inc., a Wallingford, Conn.-based provider of live, online networked video solutions, has secured $10.4 million of a $15.7 million Series F round, according to a regulatory filing. Return backers include Adams Capital Management, Menlo Ventures, Morgan Stanley Venture Partners, Redshift Ventures and Two River Associates. The company has now raised over $50 million in total funding since 1999.

Mersana Therapeutics Inc., a Cambridge, Mass.-based developer of oncology agents, has raised $4 million in new convertible note funding, according to a regulatory filing. Listed backers include Fidelity Biosciences, Harris & Harris Group, PureTech Ventures, ProQuest Investments and Rho Ventures. The company had previously raised around $32 million.

Arginetix Inc., a Baltimore-based developer of small molecule inhibitors of arginase, has raised $2.3 million in first-round funding. Quaker BioVentures and MedImmune Ventures co-led the round, and were joined by Red Abbey Venture Partners, Maryland Health Care Product Development Corp. and Acidophil LLC.

Martini Media Network, a San Francisco-based online ad network focused on affluent individuals, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series A funding from Venrock, according to VentureWire.

One-Day University, an educational event planning company, has raised an undisclosed amount of growth equity from the CMS Small-Cap Private Equity Fund.

Buyout Deals

Golden Gate Capital and Preferred Unlimited Inc. have agreed to buy U.S. Silica from Harbinger Capital Partners, according to LBO Wire. The deal would include around $180 million in senior financing, including a $145 million term loan from BNP Paribas, and $72 million in mezz debt from Golden Gate. U.S. Silica is a Berkeley Springs, West Va.-based maker of industrial silica sand. Harbinger bought it from Harvest Partners last year for an undisclosed amount.

J.W. Childs has acquired Refrigerator Manufacturers Inc., a Santa Fe Springs, Calif.-based provider of large cooler and freezer rooms for major U.S. entertainment destination facilities. No financial terms were disclosed for the deal, which was a restructuring prompted by RMI’s former parent sought creditor protection.

PNC Equity Partners has acquired The Orthotic Group Inc., a Markham, Ontario-based maker and distributor of prescription orthotics, orthotic footwear and gait analysis equipment to healthcare professionals. No pricing terms were disclosed. Bank of Montreal provided senior debt, while MTN Capital Partners and Orthotic Group management participated alongside PNC on the equity tranche.

Tonka Bay Equity Partners has completed a dividend recapitalization of portfolio company All-Flex AVT Holdings LLC, a Northfield, Minn.-based flexible circuit manufacturer. No financial terms were disclosed, except that M&I Marshall & Ilsley provided capital.

TPG Capital is leading a $1.28 billion bid for a 35% stake in Indonesian coal miner Bumi Resources, according to a local media report. The bid would value Bumi lower than its closing price on October 6, which is when trading was suspended.

Brysam Global Partners has agreed to invest around $98 million for an 18.84% stake in Columbian bank BCSC. Fundación Social would remain the bank’s largest shareholder with a 71.7% stake, while IFC holds the remainder.

D.E. Shaw Laminar Portfolios, a first-lien lender to bankrupt Sleep Innovations, has filed a legal objection to the mattress maker’s plan toaccess a $35 million loan. Specifically, the lender believes that the financing would practically prevent alternate routes like asset sales. A hearing is scheduled for today in a Delaware court. Sleep Innovations is a portfolio company of Catterton Partners.

Fitness Holdings International, a Long Beach, Calif.-based fitness equipment retailer, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It plans to hire a liquidator for its 111 stores, which operate under such brands as Omni Fitness, Busy Body Home Fitness and LA Gym Equipment. Hancock Park Associates had acquired the company out of bankruptcy in 2001.

PE Exits

Corel Corp. (TSX: CRE), a software company majority-owned by Vector Capital, has ended talks with a third party regarding a potential sale. The company said it will continue to evaluate all strategic alternatives.

PE-Backed M&A

Ariston Global Holding, a Pittsford, N.Y.-based communications acquisition platform sponsored by Spire Capital Partners, has acquired ACE*Comm Corp., a Gaithersburg, Md.-based provider of OSS/BSS services to telecom service producers and large enterprises. No financial terms were disclosed, except that BIA Digital Partners provided $12 million in debt financing.

Medrium Inc., a provider of Web-based practice management software for physicians, has acquired Wilmington Professional Associates Inc., a Delaware-based medical billing company. No financial terms were disclosed. Medrium recently raised $10.46 million in Series C funding from NGN Capital, Delta Opportunity Fund, Mosaix Ventures, Overbrook Fund, SIF Investment and Ticonderoga Capital. It also secured $12.5 million in venture debt from Orix Venture Finance.

Neilsoft Ltd., an India-based provider of outsourced engineering and tech services, has acquired Cadforce Inc., a Marina del Rey, California-based outsourcer of CAD drafting services for architects. No financial terms were disclosed. Neilsoft has raised over $9 million in VC funding from firms like Trident Capital, while Cadforce has raised capital from firms like Rincon Venture Partners, Tech Coast Angels and VCE Capital.

Firms & Funds

Arx Equity Partners has held an €83 million first close on its third fund, which will focus on mid-market opportunities in Central and Eastern Europe.

The Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System has approved a $25 million commitment to the Yucaipa American Alliance Fund II.

Human Resources

Resilience Capital Partners has promoted Ki Mixon to principal. He currently sits on the boards of Resilience portfolio companies Penda Corp., ASC Signal Corp., ChemDesign Products and Midwest Machining Solutions.

RSM McGladrey has promoted Michael Grossman to managing director. Grossman oversees the firm’s buyside work for private equity funds, and will now have additional responsibilities for East Coast operations.

Sean Sundstrom has joined I- bank Newbury Piret & Company Inc. as a managing director, with a focus on tech, media and telecom M&A. He previously was a director of corporate finance for KPMG Corporate Finance.