PE Week Wire: Wed., Nov. 14, 2007

No real column today, as I need to trudge up Nob Hill to participate in The Great Debates at Buyouts West, which also will include John Adler of SEIU, Kelvin Davis of TPG and Monte Brem of StepStone. So just some links for today, including a bunch of stuff I wrote yesterday while hanging out at the Fairmont…

*** Live-blogging from the first day of Buyouts West, including on keynote speeches from Hartley Rogers of Hamilton Lane and Alec Gores of The Gores Group. There’s also a news nugget in there about Hamilton Lane selling back part of its hedge fund-of-funds business to Citgo.

*** I tried pressing Kleiner Perkins yesterday on the Al Gore “salary” issue, to find out if his carried interest proceeds also would be donated to a non-profit. The short answer? We’re not telling.

*** Speaking of Gore (sort of), a lot of Wire readers don’t believe in global warming. Here’s my reply. One commenter suggested that this was just an “unoriginal” spin on the precautionary principal, but he’s wrong. I suggest taking action, not avoiding it.

* Bear Stearns is taking a $1.2 billion write-down in Q4, but says that leveraged finance conditions are improving.

* Barack Obama is unveiling his tech plan today, which will include the establishment of a national chief technology officer. VentureBeat has a sneak peak.

* Private equity, the novel.

* A venture capitalist says publicly that his investment profits should be taxed at a higher rate. Not a big name, but enough of these little cracks might lead to some structural issues at the dam.

* Info on West Hill Partners, the new firm from J.W. Childs alums like Dana Schmaltz. I hear that they’ve circled up a bunch of commitments. Still no word on whether or not John Childs tries to raise another fund for his namesake firm. Or, if he does, who else would be on his depleted team.

* Och-Ziff goes public. Henry Kravis is probably paying close attention.

* Some new job postings in our Careers Section. you can post your own opportunity for just $99.

Top Three

Madison Dearborn Partners has completed its $6.3 billion take-private buyout of Nuveen Investments Inc. (NYSE: JNC), a Chicago–based provider of diversified investment services to institutional and high-net-worth investors. Nuveen stockholders received $65 per share in cash.

Ambit Biosciences, a San Diego-based developer of small-molecule kinase inhibitors for the treatment of cancer, has raised $49.3 million in Series D funding. Apposite Capital led the round, and was joined by MedImmune Ventures, OrbiMed Advisors, Radius Ventures, NovaQuest and Horizon Technology Finance. Return backers included Perseus-Soros Biopharmaceutical Fund, Forward Ventures, Avalon Ventures, Roche Venture Fund, GIMV, Jov-CMDF and Genechem. Ambit has raised just over $100 million in total VC funding since 2000.

Skyline Ventures has closed its fifth healthcare-focused VC fund with $350 million in capital commitments. The vehicle will target approximately 15 portfolio companies with a total of between $15 million and $35 million invested in each.

VC Deals

OpenPeak Inc., a Boca Raton, Fla.-based provider of a touch screen interface and software that integrates home telephony, Internet content and digital media on a single device, has raised $30 million in Series C funding. Return backers include RRE Ventures and Castletop Capital.

Zecco Holdings Inc., a Burlingame, Calif.-based zero-commission online brokerage, has raised $25 million. Velocity Capital led the round, which came with a post-money valuation of approximately $100 million, according to VentureWire.

NorthStar Systems International, a San Francisco-based provider of wealth management software to financial services institutions, has raised $18 million round in new VC funding. Backers include Ropart Asset Management Funds, TL Ventures and Trinad Capital.

ON Networks Inc., an Austin, Texas-based producer of original online video entertainment, has raised $12 million in second-round funding. Accel Partners led the deal, and was joined by return backers Austin Ventures and AT&T Corp.

ChaCha, an Indianapolis-based search startup, has raised $10 million in second-round funding. Morton Meyerson led the deal, and was joined by return backers Bezos Expeditions, Rod Canion (founding CEO of Compaq) and Jack Gill (partner at Maven Ventures). The deal included a $2 million grant from 21st Century Technology Fund, an Indiana technology initiative. ChaCha had raised a $6 million Series A round earlier this year.

Billeo Inc., a Santa Clara, Calif.-based online bill payment solution, has raised $7 million in Series B funding. ATA Ventures led the deal, and was joined by return backers Altos Ventures, Claremont Creek and Pacifica Fund.

Valen Technologies, a Denver-based provider of predictive analytics experts for the property and casualty insurance industry, has raised $6.5 million in third-round funding. Backers include Core Capital Partners and Appian Ventures.

Fatdoor, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based online community platform for neighborhoods, has raised $5.5 million in first-round funding. Norwest Venture Partners led the deal, and was joined by KeyNote Ventures. In other Fatdoor news, the company has added Jennifer Dulski as its new CEO. She previously was head of Yahoo Local Markets and Commerce.

GetJar, a mobile application distribution and developer community, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series A funding from Accel Partners. The company has offices in the UK and Lithuania.

Gydget, a San Francisco-based social marketing platform, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series A funding led by SunBridge Partners.

iCardiac Technologies Inc., a Rochester, N.Y.-based commercializer of cardiac safety technologies developed at the University of Rochester Medical Center, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series B funding. A regulatory filing indicates that the deal price was nearly $6 million. Participants included Advantage Capital Partners, Stonehenge Growth Capital and Trillium Group.

SmartDrive Systems Inc., a San Diego-based provider of driver risk management systems and services, has raised $46 million in Series D funding. peHUB reported the news last week, based on a regulatory filing. New Enterprise Associates led the deal, and was joined by return backers Oak Investment Partners, Revolution Ventures, the Founders Fund and Western Technology Investments.

Buyout Deals

Reservoir Capital Group and Black Diamond Capital Partners have acquired Clearwater, Fla.-based insurance marketing company AmeriLife Group LLC, for an undisclosed amount.

TSM Capital has acquired a 22% stake in Rachel Roy Fashions, a New York-based fashion house launched in 2004 by Rachel Roy and Damon Dash. No financial terms were disclosed.

PE-Backed IPOs

Initiate Systems Inc., a Chicago-based provider of master data management software, has filed for a $75 million IPO. It plans to trade on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol NISY, with Goldman Sachs serving as lead underwriter. Shareholders include Sigma Partners (29.6% pre-IPO stake) and Apex Venture Partners (11.8%).

PE-Backed M&A

Affinia Group Inc., an Ann Arbor, Mich.–based provider of on-and-off highway replacement products and services, has acquired certain assets of Ontario-based Brake Pro Ltd., including its manufacturing equipment, friction formulations and brand name. No financial terms were disclosed. Affinia is controlled by Cypress Group.

Marlin Equity Partners has closed on its acquisition of Stravina Operating Co., a designer and marketer of name-personalized gifts and novelties sold through mass market retail. Stravina will be integrated into Hanover Accessories, a division of Marlin portfolio company Ultra*Pro.

WhiteFence, a Houston, Texas-based online comparison shopping site for residential home services, has acquired the IP rights and domain name of GetConnected Inc., a Boston-based operator of an ecommerce and integration platform service for merchants like Best Buy, AOL, Circuit City and Radio Shack. No financial terms were disclosed. WhiteFence has raised around $29 million in VC funding from firms like Adams Street Partners and Internet Capital Group, while GetConnected had raised around $25 million from Vantage Partners, VantagePoint Venture Partners, Atlas Venture and Asset Management Company Venture Capital.

Firms & Funds

The State of Michigan has retained JPMorgan to provide portfolio administration and performance reporting for the alternative asset division of its various state retirement systems.

Amanda Capital of Finland has held a €77 million first close on its fourth Western European fund-of-funds. The firm had closed its third fund-of-funds earlier this year with €110 million.

Calera Capital, the San Francisco-based mid-market buyout firm formerly known as Fremont Partners, is raising just over $1 billion for itts fourth fund, according to LBO Wire.

Imperial Capital has agreed to acquire USBX Inc. and UBSX Advisory Services, a boutique I-bank focused on M&A. No financial terms were disclosed.

Human Resources

Julie Levenson has joined Cowen Group Inc. as a managing director and head of the firm’s private equity group. She previously was a managing director with Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin, where she led the firm’s private equity and PIPE placement business. Before that, she ran the private placement group at Bear Stearns.