CCMP Capital’s fate is in investor hands, following death of ex-CEO

March 18, 2015, 2:43 PM UTC
Photograph by Peter Reitzfeld — Dow Jones Events

In February, we reported that Steve Murray had left CCMP Capital, the New York-based private equity firm where he had served as co-founder and CEO. At the time, CCMP said that his departure was “health-related,” but declined to provide any additional comment.

Last Thursday, Murray died in his own home at the age of 52.

What follows is something I’ve been struggling with, but which I’ve obviously decided to report. Namely because there is as much professional as personal in this situation, and that’s my job (some may disagree, and that’s understandable).

Multiple sources now say that CCMP was tipped off in mid-December that Murray might have a serious substance abuse problem. It was not something that any of his partners had previously suspected, but a subsequent investigation led the firm, in January, to place Murray on a 60-day medical leave of absence. In written correspondence with limited partners, CCMP used the same “health-related” terminology that it would use in February after determining that the separation with Murray needed to be made permanent.

It appears that CCMP was more forthcoming in response to verbal queries from certain LPs — including members of its LP advisory committee — but never in writing (likely for legal reasons).

For CCMP, this situation is about more than personal tragedy and professional embarrassment. Murray’s departure triggered a key-man provision on a $3.6 billion fund that closed just last September.

CCMP actually had multiple key-man clauses on the fund: Sole provisions for both Murray and then-chairman (now CEO) Greg Brenneman, and also for a certain majority of its investment committee. A rolling reinstatement process is now underway. I would imagine that it will pass (i.e., the firm will get to keep investing) — particularly given that the fund is already around 40% committed, and LPs committed to the broader team within the past year — but not all the votes are in yet.

CCMP declined to comment for this story.

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