Female Execs to Help Fund With Deals –

NEW YORK – A group of private equity professionals is preparing to launch a fund with a target of approximately $300 million that will rely on a network of female executives for deal flow and due diligence.

The firm, as yet unnamed, has three partners: Molly Ashby, a former managing director at J.P. Morgan Capital Corp., Lori Koffman, previously a managing director at CIBC Capital Partners, and Karen Mills, who advises private equity investors about operating matters through her firm MMP Group.

Partners at the firm declined comment on the new vehicle.

The all-woman firm is not the first effort of its kind: In 1997, Juno Partners, a private equity firm founded by Alexa Willson and Yvonne Cliff, set out to raise a $250 million fund to invest in women-owned businesses. The group subsequently was advised by placement agents to forgo the fund and instead built a stronger track record on a deal-by-deal basis, according to a placement agent. Additional information was unavailable at press time.

Also in 1997, the $30 million Women’s Growth Capital Fund was established by Patty Abramson, Wendee Kanarek and Rob Stein to provide capital to female entrepreneurs.

New Look for an Old Approach

This latest private equity firm, however, will not specifically target women-owned businesses or otherwise make ideologically motivated investments, according to a source close to the firm. In pursuing investments, however, the partners at the firm hope to develop a network of female executives who will participate as limited partners in the fund and as consultants to help find and manage portfolio companies.

The partners are in talks with an unspecified large institution they hope will be an anchor investor in the fund, which the group will begin marketing at the end of August, the source said.

The firm’s strategy will include buyouts in the consumer, health-care, Internet and technology sectors, although most investments will be in the form of growth equity. Investment size criteria have yet to be determined.

Koffman joined CIBC Capital Partners in 1995 to help the firm expand its strategy to include U.S. buyouts. Prior to joining CIBC Capital Partners, she worked at Lehman Brothers’ merchant banking arm, focusing on health-care investing.

Partners at the new firm already have an extensive network of executives, female and male, to draw upon: Koffman sits on the board of iVillage Inc., an on-line women’s network, while Mills sits on the board of four companies, including Arrow Electronics Inc. and Armor All Products. Among MMP Group’s clients are Clayton, Dubilier & Rice and Nassau Capital, L.L.C.