Ex-Knightsbridge investors launch Weathergage

Four former principal investors of Knightsbridge Advisors, a fund-of-funds focused on U.S. venture capital, have launched a new fund-of-funds called Weathergage Venture Capital Management Partners.

The new fund’s Managing Principals (Judith Elsea, Tim Bliamptis and Brad Hammond) and Principal Sandra Wallis each had worked at least five years at Knightsbridge before leaving some time after June 2006 to launch Weathergage. The San Francisco-based fund is looking to raise $200 million for its first fund, called Weathergage Venture Capital, according to regulatory filings. No other details about the fund were available.

Weathergage’s partners have no dearth of experience. Bliamptis co-lead Brinson Partners and managed a $10 billion alternative asset portfolio before joining Knightsbridge. Elsea was previously the chief investment officer of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation for eight years, where she managed a $2 billion portfolio. Hammond was a lawyer at Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati and made partner at Oklahoma law firm Crowe & Dunlevy.

Joel Romines, founder of Knightsbridge and the only managing principal to remain when the Weathergage team bolted, moved fast to fill the holes in his team. He hired Barbara Piette in September as a managing principal. Piette joined from Blackwood Capital, where she was a president and had worked since 2000.

The news of Weathergage comes as FoF fund-raising fell last year. In 2006, 77 fund-of-funds raised almost $21 billion, a 15% drop from 94 funds that raised $24.5 billion in 2005, according to Thomson Financial (publisher of VCJ).

A slump in fund-raising isn’t the only issue affecting the asset class. Funds-of-funds managers face the likelihood of getting booted from top-notch VC limited partner slots, as Sequoia Capital did to FoFs looking to get into the firm’s 12th fund. The word, according to sources, was that Sequoia was unhappy about some FoFs that used the Sequoia brand to market their own funds to investors and, in essence, made Sequoia compete with itself.

FoFs that were Sequoia LPs, but are not believed to have returned for fund XII, include Champion Ventures, Flag Venture Partners and HarbourVest Partners. It was unclear if Sequoia allowed Northgate Capital, the Danville, Calif.-based investment firm founded by former San Francisco 49ers, to invest in its 12th fund, which raised about $430 million last year. —Alexander Haislip