peHUB Wire: Friday, January 15, 2010

We have now sold more than 380 tickets to our peHUB Shindig in New York City, which will take place on February 3. That means a sellout is inevitable, so get yours soon by going to:

I also wanted to announce a small change of plan. We typically give Shindig ticket proceeds to a local charity, based on ticketholder nominations and an attendee vote. But given the recent tragedy in Haiti, we’ve opted to direct the money to Doctors Without Borders, which is on the ground providing medical care to the sick and injured. The first check for more than $3,000 will go out today.

A huge thanks to our generous sponsors, without whom we could not do this event: First Round Capital, NYPPEX Private Markets, PCG Asset Management and RCP Advisors.

*** On Monday, I wrote briefly about the late December acquisition of failed bank First Federal by OneWest, the bank formerly known as Indymac. Specifically, I wanted to know if the deal would require OneWest and/or its First Federal unit to meet new FDIC guidelines for PE-backed bank ownership.

For the uninitiated: OneWest was purchased by private equity investors shortly before the guidelines were enacted, thus allowing it to be grandfathered in. One result is that OneWest is required to keep a Tier One leverage ratio of at least 8%, as opposed to the more onerous 10% minimum required by the six-month-old guidelines.

What’s been amazing, so far, is that no one at FDIC has been able t! o answer the question. In fact, the FDIC first tried sending me over t o the Office of Thrift Supervision (which oversees OneWest), but they sent me back to the FDIC (which actually picked the First Federal buyer). This is a very simple yes/no question, and FDIC is acting as if I asked them to translate the Dead Sea Scrolls.

My best guess right now is that OneWest’s grandfatherly status shielded it from the FDIC guidelines, which would mean there is a glaring loophole. This isn’t about agreeing with the guidelines, but rather about disagreeing with IndyMac’s PE owners getting preferential treatment because they bought the bank in March rather than August. If the FDIC believes private equity owners need tougher oversight, then it believes private equity owners need tougher oversight. Some consistency would be welcome. So would an answer to my simple question.

*** CalPERS yesterday released more than 5,000 pages worth of documents related to placement agents used to secure investments from the pension system. These! are based on a recent CalPERS board request that each of its general partners provide information on who, if anyone, helped place the funds and how much was paid in fees.

The (unvetted) submissions were voluntary, with approximately 90% of CalPERS investees replying. More interesting, of course, is the 10% that didn’t respond. Still compiling a comprehensive list, although I know it includes groups like Markstone Capital Group and Central Valley Fund. Palladium Equity Partners also didn’t send in its docs, although the firm tells me that it will do so today (it used Wetherly Capital).

We have posted most of the disclosure forms from VC and private equity firms, although not the ones from real estate funds and certain special purpose vehicles (there’s simply too much stuff). If there’s an overall headline, it’s probably that ARVCO — the placement agency run by former CalPERS board member Alfred Villalobos ! — received far more in fees (we’re talking multiples) than did any ot her placement agent. It’s not even close.

Also the continuing story about how CalPERS has been a huge proponent of investment transparency and quality corporate governance over the years, but apparently neglected to do some fundamental recordkeeping for its own activities. I’m not talking anything terribly fancy – just a spreadsheet.

*** I wrote yesterday that Doyl Burkett left his VP post Aurora Capital late last year. Turns out he took a VP job with the growth equity group of Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors.

*** Publishing Note: There will be no peHUB Wire on Monday, due to the MLK Day holiday. Be back and bushy-tailed on Tuesday… Have a great weekend.

Top Three

A123 Systems (Nasdaq: AONE) has agreed to invest $23 million into electric car startup Fisker Automotive, and to provide power packs for a rechargeable luxury car being launched later this year (Fisker Karma). A123 went public last year after raising more than $300 million in VC funding. Fisker has raised more than $160 in VC funding, from firms like Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Eco-Drive (Capital) Partners, Palo Alto Investors and Al Ghaffara Investment Co. It also recently secured a $528 million low-cost loan from the Department of Energy.

Motorola is reconsidering the auction of its set-top box unit, which has received first-round expressions of interest from Bain Capital, Blackstone Group, KKR, TPG Capital, THL Partners and Silver Lake Partners. The mobile phone company’s board will meet later this month to decide whether to proceed with the ! sale, or fold the set-top unit into a spinout of its mobile handset business. Second-round bids are currently due on February 18, pending the board’s decision.

Wilbur Ross said yesterday that his firm is not considering a purchase of United Guaranty, the mortgage insurance unit of AIG. He is, however, interested in possibly partnering with Virgin Money on a bid for state-owned British bank Northern Rock.

VC Deals

Averna, a Montreal-based provider of test solutions for communications and electronics device makers, has raised US$10 million in new VC funding, according to VentureBeat. Japanese electronics firm Onkyo was joined by return backers Altien Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Best Buy Capital, DAG Ventures, Intel Capital, Panasonic Venture Group, Polycom and Redpoint Ventures. The company has now raised $52 million in total VC funding.

Switch Materials Inc., a Vancouver-based developer of energy-saving window materials, has raised C$7.5 million in Series B funding. BDC Venture Capital led the round, and was joined by return backers GrowthWorks, Pangaea Ventures and Ventures West.

Blippy, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup that lets users share recent online purchase information, has raised $1.6 million in seed funding led by Charles River Ventures (which incubated the company). Other backers include Sequoia Capital, Ron Conway, Evan Williams, Jason Calacanis, James Hong and Ariel Poler. The company has been described as “Twitter for credit card purchases.”

Buyouts Deals

Advantage Partners and Softbank Corp. are mulling taking stakes in wireless telco Willcom Inc., which is 60% owned by The Carlyle Group. Willcom has been in talks to restructure its debt.

Extended Stay America Inc. has received 60 extra days to file a reorganization plan with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The discount hotel chain was acquired by Lightstone Group in 2008 for $8 billion.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing reportedly is in talks with lenders to slash around 60% of its $7 billion of debt. This would be the academic publisher’s second debt restructuring in less than a year. Riverdeep bought Houghton Miffli! n in 2006 from Bain Capital, Blackstone Group and THL Partners.

Interactive Data Corp. (NYSE: IDC), a provider of financial markets data, reportedly has approached potential buyers. The company is 62% owned by UK publisher Pearson.

PE-Backed IPOs

TDC investors have short-listed investment banks for a public listing in the second or third quarter. A final decision is expected within several weeks. The $9 billion Danish telecom operator was bought via LBO in 2005 by Apax Partners, Blackstone Group, KKR, Permira and Providence Equity Partners.

PE Exits

Clessidra, an Italian private equity firm, is hired RBC to manage a sale of the Prenergy power station – a project that would be Britain’s largest biomass power plant. Construction on the South Wales project is expected to take three years and cost around $650 million.

IDT (Nasdaq: IDTI) has acquired Mobius Microsystems, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based provider of all-silicon oscillator technology. No pricing terms of the all-cash deal were disclosed. Mobius Microsystems had raised around $19 million in VC funding, from Foundation Capital, Menlo Ventures and RPM Ventures.

Firms & Funds

Guardian Capital Partners has closed its debut fund with just over $50 million in capital commitments. The Wayne, Penn.-based firm focuses on the acquisition of controlling interests in lower middle-market manufacturing and service businesses in the United States.

Human Resources

Evan Gobdel has joined Chicago-based private equity firm Woodlawn Partners as a partner. He previously was a vice president with Midwest Mezzanine Funds.

Waud Capital Partners has promoted David Neighbours to partner and Chuck Edwards to principal. Neighbours joined the firm in 2003 as a principal, while Edwards joined in 2005 as a vice president.

Rich Zannino, a managing director with CCMP Capital and former CEO of Dow Jones & Co., has joined the board of The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. (NYSE: EL).