Armed with a stable of former Bain Capital investors-plus a legendary NFL quarterback-Sorenson Capital late last month closed its inaugural fund with $250 million. The Salt Lake City-based firm plans to invest its newfound capital in buyouts of small- and mid-sized companies based in the western United States.
“Our primary focus will be on the Mountain region, which we feel is under-served and has a lot of attractive opportunities,” said Frazier Bullock, one of five managing directors with Sorenson. “We are also working on two opportunities in California, where we have an office.”
Bullock served as an original partner of Bain Capital, and gained wider recognition for his role as president and CEO of the Salt Lake City Organizing Committee for the Olympic Winter Games of 2002. Following the Games, Bullock decided to reenter the deal-making arena, and teamed up with Ron Mika, who also was a former managing director with Bain Capital.
At the same time, Rich Lawson and Steve Young, both managing directors of IRR Partners, were looking for a larger platform from which to make direct buyout investments. Lawson was the former president of Bain portfolio company Found Inc., while Young was a former football star who had later served as chairman of Found. The pair teamed up with Bullock and Mika, and quickly discovered that Jim Sorenson, the former CEO of Sorenson Media, was interested in helping to bankroll such a project.
Sorenson Capital was formally launched in February 2003 with a $75 million investment from the Sorenson family. It also included a fifth managing director in Timothy Layton, who had served as a managing director with Alpine Consolidated LLC, which Bullock founded in 1996.
Adams Street Partners then stepped in with a $71 million commitment, followed by limited partner participation from Wilshire Private Markets Group, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. and Grove Street Advisors (on behalf of CalPERS).
No member of the Sorenson family is on the active investment team, although Luke Sorenson is an associate with the firm. Two members of the family do sit on the investment advisory board, alongside Bob Gay, a current managing director at Bain Capital.
“The majority of our deals will be done alone, but if something is too big for us, Bain will always be our first call,” Frazier explained. He added that approximately 80% of Sorenson Capital buyouts will be leveraged, and that the firm will occasionally engage in growth capital transactions.
Sorenson Capital employs 12 private equity professionals, and maintains offices in Salt Lake City, Phoenix and Palo Alto, Calif. It has not yet made its first investment.