What’s In a Name? Excellere Partners

Many buyout firms claim they want to achieve a high level of performance and exceed expectations.

Excellere Partners, the newly formed LBO shop based in Denver, decided to put the concept into its name, taking inspiration from the Latin word meaning “to excel.”

“To us, it’s about striving for excellence,” said Rob Martin, a managing partner who founded the firm with David Kessenich. Originally, the pair wanted to name their new firm Excel Partners. As it turned out, Martin said, “there’s a lot of ‘excel’s of everything,” prompting the introduction of a Latin flavor.

Although Excellere (pronounced Ex-SELL-ear) Partners is new, Martin and Kessenich are by no means new to the buyout game. Both were long-time principals with KRG Capital Partners, but with the Denver-based firm moving up-market with successively larger funds, Martin and Kessenich decided to stay behind in the lower middle market.

“We think the returns are better there,” Martin said, adding that he and Kessenich both like taking hands-on roles at portfolio companies, an opportunity that isn’t always possible with bigger, more polished companies. Martin also said they caught the entrepreneurial bug.

“People feel passionately about moving out on their own,” he said. “We want to be architects of our own firm.”

After Martin and Kessenich left KRG Capital in late 2005 and early 2006, they met with several potential limited partners in the first half of 2006 to understand how the new firm would be received. Then they auditioned several placement agents, ultimately hiring UBS in August. Fundraising began in September 2006 with a $200 million target. Five months later, in February 2007, Martin and Kessenich could deliver the two most satisfying boasts in the business: their fund was oversubscribed, and they exceeded their target, raising $265 million for the inaugural vehicle.

The firm invests in companies generating EBITDA of between $4 million and $15 million. Excellere Partners plans to invest in health care, medical technology, business services, building products and energy and utility services. Health care, life sciences and medical technology accounted for well over half of Martin and Kessenich’s deal-making at KRG Capital.