By Dan Primack
January 19, 2011

John Gilligan is leaving private equity firm Golden Gate Partners after a 10-year run, Fortune has learned. He will relocate from the Bay Area to Chicago in order to join BDT Capital Partners, a $2 billion group launched in 2009 by ex-Goldman Sachs banker Byron Trott (a.k.a. Warren Buffett’s favorite banker).

Gilligan declined to comment, but a source familiar with the situation says that his decision was prompted by family considerations. Gilligan’s wife is from the Chicago area, while Gilligan himself was interested in returning (a bit) closer to his East Coast roots.

In order to make the switch, Gilligan turned down Golden Gate’s offer of a promotion from principal to managing director. He originally joined the firm in 2001, and will transition all of his Golden Gate board seats to remaining staffers.

No word yet on what Gilligan will focus on at BDT, which invests in family-owned and other closely-held businesses. While with Golden Gate, he worked on deal opportunities in the software, healthcare, health/wellness and direct sales sectors.

In addition to Trott and Gilligan, the BDT team includes Don McLellan (ex-head of M&A at Motorola) and William Bush (former partner with Fulbright & Jaworski). The firm recently acquired a majority stake in charcoal and gas grill-maker Weber-Stephen Products Co.

As for Golden Gate, Gilligan’s departure is just the latest blow. Last summer, firm co-founder Jesse Rogers and two longtime principals left to form a new firm called Altamont Capital Partners. A firm spokesman has not yet replied to a request for comment on Gilligan’s decision.

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