Perseus LLC, with offices in Washington, D.C. and New York, recently added two business and political heavyweights to its roster when Richard Holbrooke and James Johnson joined the firm as vice chairmen.
Perseus, despite its big-name partners and numerous funds, has somehow managed to ward off press attention since it was founded in 1994 by Frank Pearl. However, making additions like Holbrooke and Johnson is difficult to sweep under the rug.
The two were partners in the ’80s in the strategic consulting firm Public Strategies, which they founded and later sold to Lehman Brothers, where they eventually became managing directors.
During his career, Holbrooke was vice chairman of Credit Suisse First Boston and also filled numerous public service roles as a diplomat and negotiator. His most recent government service title was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, which he held until January of this year. He was also U.S. ambassador to Germany from 1993 to 1994 and assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affiars from 1994 to 1996. Holbrooke was the chief architect of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended the war in Bosnia – a role for which he has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize.
“I have been an investment banker for 15 of the last 20 years – 12 years at Lehman and three at First Boston,” Holbrooke said in a statement. “I especially enjoy identifying investment opportunities and helping those companies grow through applications of capital and expertise.”
Johnson, in addition to his activities at Public Strategies and Lehman with Holbrooke, was chairman and CEO of Fannie Mae from 1991 to 1998. He also served as executive assistant to Vice President Walter Mondale, advising him on domestic and foreign matters.
“I believe this is a great time to be in private equity investing,” Johnson said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to helping find and develop undervalued opportunities with high potential.”
What About Perseus?
Perseus manages several private equity and hedge funds, including a $500 million vehicle with Soros Priate Equity Partners called Perseus Soros BioPharmaceutical Fund LP, a private equity fund called Perseus Acquisition/Recapitalization Fund, and an energy fund in conjunction with General Electric Co. According to the Wall Street Journal, the firm manages seven funds and has plans for two more.
The group covers three areas with its investment strategy: leveraged buyouts and recaps of established operating businesses, later-stage, industry-focused venture deals, and strategic investments in market sectors deemed undervalued by the firm.
Perseus’ most recent buyout activity occurred in March when Perseus Acquisition Fund teamed with a group of investors, including Marsden Cason and William Simon, on the agreement to purchase athletic footwear maker Converse Inc., best known for its Chuck Taylor style shoe, out of Chapter 11 Bankruptcy for $117.5 million (Buyouts March 26, p. 8)