Exclusive: Parish Capital on the block

June 10, 2011, 6:02 PM UTC

Parish Capital, a private equity fund-of-funds manager with more than $2 billion in assets under management, has hired boutique investment bank Colchester Partners to advise on strategic alternatives, Fortune has learned.

Parish, founded in 2003, has been having trouble raising money for a pair of new vehicles. According to regulatory filings and public statements, it only had secured around $155 million in total commitments for its third North America-focused fund ($450 million target) and its second Europe-focused fund (target €250 million) through the end of 2010.

Not terribly unusual in today’s scuffling fund-of-funds world, but still problematic for a firm that staffed up big after raising more than $800 million in 2006. Moreover, the firm last year lost one of its three co-founders, Wendell McCain, who is said to be launching his own co-investment platform. [Update: Here is McCain’s new firm]

So Parish retained Colchester, ostensibly to find a financial/strategic partner that could help provide capital and/or help with distribution. Kind of like what fund-of-funds manager Siguler Guff did in 2009 with BNY Mellon Asset Management, except that Parish may be willing to offer up a majority stake in the management company (Siguler Guff sold a minority position). The buyer, of course, would get a percentage of ongoing management fee streams and of any carried interest. Plus an experienced fund-of-funds team and existing GP relationships. Both Merritt and fellow co-founder James Mason would be expected to remain.

Existing limited partners with Parish include NY Common Retirement Fund, NY State Teachers, Duke University and the North Carolina Treasury. The firm is based in Chapel Hill, N.C., but also has offices in London and New York.

Charles Merritt, a co-founding partner with Parish, declined to comment. Greg Dimit, a Colchester managing director working on the Parish account, did not return my call.