X Doesn't Mark The Spot
When venture capital or private equity firms implode, it usually happens quietly. Once all the lawyers and mediators and PR pros are done, the mess is cleaned up for public consumption. Orderly transition. Amicable divorce.
But that is not the case at Xfund, an early-stage venture capital group with deep ties to Harvard University. Instead, the firm’s two general partners—Patrick Chung and Hugo Van Vuuren—have engaged in an acrimonious breakup that has included employee firings, name-calling, bank account freezes, and even a restraining order request.
Yesterday afternoon we broke the story, which is based on both court filings and conversations with nearly a dozen sources. Unfortunately, it is simply too long to fit in this space, so I encourage you to read it by going here.
Don’t worry. I’ll wait….
All done? Good. A few additional thoughts:
1. I do not know if the threats of violent were legitimate, or if they were fantasy (save for a email from Van Vuuren to Chung — which didn’t make my story — which sounded menacing until you realize that it was cribbed from Game of Thrones). For the sake of transparency, I’ve known Patrick Chung for about a decade. I’ve briefly met Van Vuuren a couple of times, and spoken to him on the phone a few more. I’ve found them both to be personable, and never violent nor conniving. Moreover, I’ve spoken to several people close to each, who find the situation regrettable, but stand by the character of “their” man. It is possible one is lying about the threats of violence (or lack thereof). It also is possible, that Chung and/or Van Vuuren have severely misinterpreted the other’s words and actions, meaning that each sincerely believes that he is being truthful.
2. LPs in this situation effectively have three choices: (1) Let Chung continue the fund. (2) Let Van Vuuren continue managing the fund. (3) Hire an outside person/group to either continue making new investments or just manage out the existing portfolio (the $100 million fund is only 10% called). That last one would be the ‘take our ball and go home option,’ and it’s one to which the LPAC gave serious (and understandable) consideration, but I’m told that the existing docs would have made it extremely difficult to extricate both Patrick and Hugo from the existing portfolio.
3. I happen to be partial to the notion of no tie-breakers in a two-person fund, particularly when it comes to investments and personnel. Seems that if the two principals can’t agree, then the action is best left undone. But I certainly understand dissenting opinions on this, particularly from those who have been in molasses-like operating situations.
4. Most LPs I spoke with read neither the temporary restraining order request, nor Van Vuuren’s response. I’m also under the impression that not all three LPAC members read them. As a reporter, this seems inexplicable. These folks have to “vote” on who gets to manage the fund going forward, and they don’t take the time to read sworn statements? But as one LP explained it: “I am very busy and this is a very small investment for me. I relied on counsel, which is what counsel is for.” I don’t agree with it, but I get it.
Clearly this is a regrettable situation for all involved, and particularly for any portfolio company entrepreneurs who feel stuck in the middle. And it’s not over yet. We’ll continue to cover it as events warrant.
THE BIG DEAL
• Pivotal, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based software development specialist, has raised $253 million in Series C funding at a post-money valuation of approximately $2.8 billion (per Fortune). Ford Motor Co. led the round with a $182 million commitment, and was joined by Microsoft and return backers EMC, VMWare and General Electric. Read more.
VENTURE CAPITAL DEALS
• FarFetch, a London-based online marketplace that helps independent boutiques sell their luxury wares, has raised $110 million in Series F funding at a $1.5 billion post-money valuation (per PitchBook). Temasek, IDG Capital Partners and Eurazeo were joined by return backer Vitruvian Partners. The company previously raised around $200 million in VC funding, including an $86 million Series E round last year at a post-money valuation of $1 billion. Existing shareholders include Advent Venture Partners, Index Ventures, DST Capital and Condé Nast. Read more.
• Via, a New York-based on-demand transit company, has raised $70 million in new VC funding. Pitango Growth led the round, and was joined by Poalim Capital Markets, C4 Ventures and return backers Ervington Investments, Hearst Ventures and 83North. The company also said that it will close a $30 million “strategic investment” in the coming weeks. www.ridewithvia.com
• LensKart, an India-based eyeglass ecommerce company, has raised around $60 million in Series D funding. International Finance Corp. led the round, and was joined by such groups as TPG Growth, Adveq Management and IDG Ventures. Read more.
• On24, a San Francisco-based webcasting company, has raised $25 million in new VC funding led by Goldman Sachs. Read more.
CloudHealth Technologies, a Boston-based provider of cloud service management solutions, has raised $20 million in Series C funding. Sapphire Ventures led the round, and was joined by Scale Venture Partners, .406 Ventures and Sigma Prime Ventures. www.cloudhealthtech.com
• Azimo, a London-based remittance startup, has raised $15 million in new VC funding from a fintech-focused VC arm of Rakuten (Tokyo: 4755). Read more.
• Haven, a programmatic logistics platform for freight, has raised $11 million in Series A funding. Spark Capital led the round, and was joined by AITV and return backers OATV, Data Collective and First Round Capital. www.haveninc.com
• 1366 Technologies, a Bedford, Mass.-based silicon wafer manufacturer, has raised $10 million in new Series C funding (bringing the round total to $32.5m) from South Korea’s Hanwha Investment Corp. www.1366tech.com
• Somnoware Healthcare Systems, a Charlotte, N.C.-based cloud platform for sleep wellness and sleep disorder management, has raised $9 million in Series A funding. TransLink Capital led the round, and was joined by the World Innovation Lab. www.somnoware.com
• Rebagg, a New York-based luxury resale service, has raised $8 million in Series A funding. Return backer General Catalyst led the round, and was joined by Metamorphic Ventures, Crosslink Capital, Founder Collective, Big Sur Ventures-Necotium and the holding company of Fabrice Grinda and Jose Marin. www.rebagg.com
• Eonite Perception, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based “startup dedicated to making machines understand the real world,” has raised $5.25 million in seed funding from backers like Lightspeed Venture Partners, Signia Venture Partners, Presence Capital, The VR Fund, Rising Tide and CLI Ventures. www.eonite.com
• YieldStreet, a New York-based specialty finance and alternative lending platform, has raised $3.7 million in new VC funding from Expansion Venture Capital, Saturn Venture Partners and individual angels. www.yieldstreet.com
• WeCounsel Solutions LLC, a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based telemedicine software startup, has raised $3.5 million in Series A funding. Backers include Longmeadow Capital Partners, Point Judith Capital and CVH Holdings. www.wecounsel.com
• Teachable (f.k.a. Fedora), a New York-based online marketplace for instructors, has raised $2.5 million in new seed funding. Backers include Accomplice Learn Capital and Naval Ravikant. www.teachable.com
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
• Baring Private Equity Asia has agreed to acquire a 35% stake in Telus International, a Singapore-based business process outsourcing company, at an enterprise value of around $1 billion. www.telusinternational.com
• Baring Private Equity Asia and Glenwood Private Equity have partnered to purchase Lafarge Halla Cement, the Korean subsidiary of LafargeHolcim (Swiss: LHN), for around $470 million. Read more.
• Blue Software, a Des Plaines, Ill.-based portfolio company of Diversis Capital, has acquired the Design2Launch brand graphics management software and services business of Eastman Kodak Co. (NYSE: KODK) for an undisclosed amount. www.bluesoftware.com
• The Blackstone Group is in talks to acquire up to five industrial buildings in Australia from listed Malaysian palm oil producer Sime Darby Bhd. for around A$250 million, according to Bloomberg. Read more.
• EVgo, an charging network for electric vehicles, has raised an undisclosed amount of private equity funding from Vision Ridge Partners. www.vision-ridge.com
• GTCR has completed its previously-announced acquisition of Onvoy LLC, a Minneapolis-based provider of wholesale voice-enabling services, from Communications Infrastructure Investments. No financial terms were disclosed. www.onvoy.com
• Kohlberg & Co. has acquired Interstate Hotels & Resorts, an Arlington, Va.-based provider of third-party hotel management solutions, from Thayer Lodging and Jin Jiang International Hotels (HK: 2006). No financial terms were disclosed, except that the acquisition is being supported by committed debt financing from Antares Capital, Madison Capital, TIAA and MetLife. www.ihrco.com
• Maroon Group, an Avon, Ohio-based portfolio company of CI Capital Partners, has acquired U.S. Chemicals, a Darien, Conn.-based national distributor of specialty chemicals. No financial terms were disclosed. www.maroongroupllc.com
• NLD Investment has acquired Education International Corp., a Chinese provider of educational counselling service, from CVC Capital Partners. No financial terms were disclosed. www.cvc.com
• ParFab Cos., an Inola, Okla.-based provider of components and field services for heat and pressure-intensive applications in the downstream energy infrastructure market, has raised an undisclosed amount of private equity funding from Trive Capital. www.parfabindustries.com
• Spanos Barber Jesse & Co. has sponsored a recapitalization of Stat Health Management LLC, a Long Island, N.Y.-based urgent care company. No financial terms were disclosed. www.sbjcap.com
• Waud Capital Partners has sponsored a management buyout of Ivy Rehab Network Inc., a Harrison, N.Y.-based operator of physical therapy facilities that had been owned by Ivy Capital Partners. No financial terms were disclosed. www.ivyrehab.com
• Wicks Group has acquired Bisnow, a New York-based trade publication and events company focused on the commercial real estate market, for around $50 million, according to Fortune. Read more.
• Zhaopin Ltd. (NYSE: ZPIN), a Chinese online recruitment platform, has received a preliminary takeover offer from an investor consortium that includes Sequoia China, the company’s CFO and three of its vice presidents. Read more.
• Camping World, a Bowling Green, K.Y.-based retailer of recreational vehicles and RV accessories, has hired Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan to lead its IPO, according to the NY Times. The offering is expected to raise around $350 million, and come later this year. Camping World is owned by Crestview Partners. Read more.
• Hotel Chocolat Group, a UK-based high-end chocolate retailer, expects to be valued at around £167 million when it goes public next week on London’s AIM. Read more.
• The Carlyle Group has hired Natixis to find a buyer for French orthopedic implant maker Groupe Marle, according to the WSJ. Marle generated around €24 million in EBITDA for its last fiscal year. Read more.
• HGGC has completed its previously-announced sale of Serena Software, a Redwood City, Calif.-based provider of enterprise IT management solutions, to Micro Focus (LSE: MCRO) for $540 million in cash. HGGC had purchased Serena Software in early 2014 from Silver Lake for approximately $450 million. www.serena.com
• AXA (Paris: CS) said that it is in talks to sell its UK life insurance and savings businesses (including SunLife), with expected proceeds of around $950 million. Read more.
• Barclays (LSE: BARC) has agreed to sell a 12.2% stake in its Africa unit for around $882 million, without identifying the buyer(s). There have been reports that former Barclays CEO Bob Diamond had teamed with The Carlyle Group to try purchasing the entire unit.
• Intacct, a San Jose, Calif.-based provider of cloud ERP software, has raised $40 million in venture debt financing from Silicon Valley Bank. www.intacct.com
• Intercontinental Exchange (NYSE: ICE) said that it would not make a takeover bid for the London Stock Exchange, helping clear the way for an LSE merger with the Deutsche Börse. Read more.
• Revolution Foods, an Oakland-based school meals service and provider of ready-to-eat meal kits, has acquired Batter World, a Mill Valley, Calif.-based maker of packaged pancake batters. No financial terms were disclosed, although Revolution Foods did disclose a new $1.7 million equity raise via a regulatory filing. Revolution Foods has raised over $97 million in total VC funding from firms like Revolution Growth and The Westly Group. www.batterworld.com
• Tribune Publishing Co. (NYSE: TPUB) has rejected an $815 million, or $12.25 per share, unsolicited takeover offer from Gannett Co. (NYSE: GCI). Read more.
FIRMS & FUNDS
• ff Venture Capital has closed its fourth seed and early-stage fund with $54 million in capital commitments (above $50m target). www.ffvc.com
MOVING IN, ON & UP
• Steve Brody (ex-Cerberus) has joined VC firm Lux Capital as chief operating officer. Read more.
• Michelle Peluso has re-joined Technology Crossover Ventures as a venture partner. She served in a similar role back in 2009, and subsequently served as CEO for both Travelocity and Gilt. Read more.
• Brian Provost, former president and CEO of Convey Compliance and COO of Gelco Expense Management, has joined Summit Partners as an executive-in-residence. www.summitpartners.com
• Christopher Rose and Eric Hwang have joined WilmerHale as partners in the law firm’s corporate practice. Both previously were partners with White & Case. www.wilmerhale.com
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