|PE Movers & Shakers|
In August, when Chris Iorillo, Steve Rossi and Eric Willis celebrated the first-year anniversary of their private equity firm, CounterPoint Capital Partners LLC, they toasted the close of their first investment -- Tomich Brothers LLC. The company combines two small seafood distributors in San Pedro, Calif., Tomich Brothers Fish Co., a 75-year-old family business, and Standard Seafood, established in 1948.
Tomich fits the Los Angeles group's mandate, scoping out targets in the lower-midmarket segment -- companies with $10 million to $200 million in revenue -- in niche manufacturing or distribution businesses with an emphasis on operations.
The trio established CounterPoint Capital in August 2010 in an attempt to leverage their combined expertise, connections and common pedigree of learning the trade at Platinum Equity LLC, led by Tom Gores.
Rossi, 35, had banking and financing experience with large investment banks. Willis, 34, had worked on financial diligence and deal structuring at Ernst & Young LLP; and Iorillo, 38, is a former M&A lawyer with Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP.
Back in 2005 and 2006, when the trio joined Platinum, the firm was investing out of a $700 million fund. While there, Iorillo, Rossi and Willis found themselves working together on about 30 deals in all, including turnaround investments. In one example -- industrial metals distributor PNA Group Inc., which made several add-ons and debt-funded dividend recapitalizations -- Willis worked on financial modeling and diligence, and Rossi handled the debt placement and structure while Iorillo tackled the legal diligence, documents and negotiation alongside the leader of the Platinum team. PNA was sold in 2008 to Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co. for a triple-digit return.
But as Platinum's deals moved to larger transactions and less hands-on management, the three began to wonder, why not work on deals that were too small for Platinum?
"The three of us can get a deal done amongst ourselves pretty quickly," says Iorillo, who began hatching the move with the others over meals at Jerry's Famous Deli in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Westwood while sitting at the same corner table at the back with a power outlet. They hung a shingle on a windowless office above a Papa John's outlet in South Pasadena.
Absent a track record, the three tapped high-net-worth sources for initial funding. And through one of Iorillo's law school connections, they landed seed capital from fund-of-funds Ocean Avenue Capital Partners LP.
Ocean Avenue partner Jacques Youssefmir says he liked the CounterPoint group's heritage of investing in microcap opportunities.
Not to say that the group won't have bigger fish to fry someday.