May 22, 2024

Hey, London: Reminder that we're hosting a private equity conversation tonight beginning at 6pm, as a sister event to what we did yesterday morning in New York. Get your invite.

  • Our guests are Andrew Sillitoe, co-CEO of Apax Partners, and Philipp Freise, KKR's co-head of European private equity.

Top of the Morning

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Blackstone might have just set itself up to become more profitable, by agreeing to give away some of its private equity profits.

Driving the news: The firm plans to share equity in its portfolio companies with most workers in those companies, according to a limited partner memo obtained by Axios.

  • The "systematic initiative" would apply to all of Blackstone's new large-scale, U.S. control investments. Plus around 18,000 employees of Copeland, a St. Louis-based HVAC manufacturer it purchased last year for $14 billion.
  • It had previously provided worker equity on a one-off basis, including at such companies as Ancestry, Bumble, and Merlin Entertainment.
  • Blackstone's expanded effort was first reported by the WSJ.

Catch up quick: Blackstone rival KKR kicked off the worker equity trend in 2011, with an initial focus on industrial portfolio companies like C.H.I. Overhead Doors.

  • In 2022, KKR and nearly two dozen other groups launched Ownership Works, a nonprofit aimed at helping both public and private companies to expand employee equity.

Why it matters: First, because it's simply the right thing to do.

  • Portfolio company workers are stakeholders, often with modest personal resources, and no amount of financial modeling or engineering can pay off without their day-do-day contributions.
  • It also could help make Blackstone a more appealing buyer for certain companies, plus reduce the employee churn that's common after private equity takeovers.
  • Finally, this move could lower some of the regulatory heat on private equity, which often is perceived as a bad boss.

The bottom line: Blackstone is the world's largest private equity firm, in terms of capital raised. KKR is the second. Other private equity firms should follow the leaders.


Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Oaktree Capital Management says that it's become the new owner of Italian soccer club Inter Milan, after Chinese holding company Suning missed €395 million in loan repayments.

Why it's the BFD: Inter Milan is among Italy's most popular and successful teams, and is sure to become a takeover target for those who view Oaktree as an accidental owner.

Details: Los Angeles-based Oaktree made the loans in 2021, guaranteed by Suning's control stake in the club. Repayment was due yesterday.

The bottom line: U.S. institutions or individuals now own seven of the 20 clubs competing in the Serie A league.

Venture Capital Deals

🚑 AltruBio, an SF biotech focused on immunological diseases, raised up to $225m in Series B funding. BVF Partners led, and was joined by RA Capital Management, Cormorant Asset Management, Soleus Capital, and insiders aMoon Fund and Blackstone.

H (fka Holistic AI), a French foundation model and agentic AI startup, raised $220m in seed funding from Accel, UiPath, Bpifrance, Eric Schmidt, Xavier Niel, Amazon, FirstMark, Elaia Partners, Eurazeo, Yuri Milner, Aglaé Ventures, Creandum, Motier Ventures, Samsung, and Visionaries Club.

Farcaster, a decentralized social media protocol, raised $150m. Paradigm led, and was joined by a16z crypto, Haun Ventures, USV, Variant, and Standard Crypto.

🎶 Suno, a Cambridge, Mass.-based AI music startup, raised $125m. Lightspeed led, and was joined by Matrix Partners, Founder Collective, and Nat Friedman.

🚑 Tuesday Health, a Chicago-based hospice care startup, raised $60m, per Axios Pro. Valtruis led, and was joined by Blue Venture Fund, Mass General Brigham Ventures, and CareSource.

Praktika, a London language learning app, raised $35.5m in Series A funding. Blossom Capital led, and was joined by Creator Ventures and Blue Wire Capital.

🚑 Boulder Care, a virtual addiction treatment startup, raised $35m in Series C funding, per Axios Pro. Stripes was joined by insiders First Round Capital, Qiming Venture Partners, and Laerdal Million Lives Fund.

Reactive, a British provider of electric grid monitoring tech, raised £25m in Series D funding. M&G's Catalyst led, and was joined by BGF and Breakthrough Energy Ventures.

Aerodome, a developer of "drone-as-first-responder" tech, raised $21.5m in Series A funding. CRV led, and was joined by a16z, Karman Ventures, Immad Akhund, and Ford Street Ventures.

Verse, an energy management software startup, raised $20.5m in Series A funding, per Axios Pro. GV led, and was joined by Coatue, CIV, and MCJ Collective participated.

🚑 SamaCare, an SF provider of prior authorization software for specialty medications, raised $17m in Series B funding. Questa Capital led, and was joined by insiders Vive Collective and South Park Commons.

Ketos, an SF water data provider, raised $10m. Tenfore Holdings led, and was joined by Danu Venture Group and insiders Broadway Angels, Plum Alley Ventures, Plug and Play Ventures, and Accenture.

Ore Energy, a Dutch developer of utility-scale batteries, raised €10m in seed funding from Positron Ventures, per TechCrunch.

Traction Ag, an Auburn, Ind., provider of accounting software for the agriculture market, raised $10m in Series A funding. Cooperative Venturesled, and was joined by CHS and Growmark.

🚑 Welbe, a Mexican occupational health management startup, raised $7m in Series A funding. Volpe Capital led, and was joined by IFC, NAZCA, Kortex, GreenRock, Marathon, and Parceiro Ventures.

🚑 Limula, a Swiss developer of cell therapy manufacturing tech, raised around $6.8m in seed funding. LifeX Ventures led, and was joined by Verve Ventures, Zühlke Ventures, Oxford Seed Fund, Lichtsteiner Foundation, and the W.A. de Vigier Foundation.

Subeca, a Dallas-based water metering tech developer, raised $6m in Series A funding. Suez led, and was joined by Amazon's Climate Pledge Fund and Burnt Island Ventures.

Cellugy, a Danish developer of cellulose-based materials, raised €4.9m in seed funding. ICIG Ventures and Unconventional Ventures co-led, and were joined by Joyance Partners, PSV DeepTech, The Footprint Firm, and EIFO.

🚑 Superpower, an LA-based personal health optimization startup, raised $4m in seed funding from Susa Ventures and Long Journey Ventures.

Volt, an SMS messaging infrastructure platform, raised $3m in seed funding, per Axios Pro. Mercury Fund led, and was joined by Atento Capital, Uncorrelated Ventures, Stout Street Capital, and Yellow Rocks.

Private Equity Deals

Blue Point Capital Partners acquired National Safety Apparel, a Cleveland maker of personal protective equipment for the electrical, industrial and service markets.

BV Investment Partners acquired a majority stake in CyberSheath, a Reston, Va.-based IT services provider for companies in the defense industrial sector. Sellers include Lightview Capital.

Circtec, a London developer of pyrolysis tire recycling facilities, raised €75m in equity funding co-led by Novo Holdings and A.P. Moller Holding.

Core Industrial Partners completed its take-private buyout of Fathom Digital Manufacturing, a Hartland, Wis.-based 3D printing firm that it had owned before Fathom went public via a SPAC.

Eastern Metal Supply, an aluminum products maker owned by Wynnchurch Capital, acquired Eagle Metal Distributors, an Orlando distributor of aluminum products and patio screens.

Forward Consumer Partners acquired a 50% stake in Xochitl, an Irving, Texas, maker of tortilla chips and salsas.

🚑 InTandem Capital acquired Adams Clinical, a Watertown, Mass.-based clinical trial sites network.

KKR acquired a minority stake in PHINMA Education, the education arm of Filipino conglomerate PHINMA Corp.

LeadsOnline, a Plano, Texas, portfolio company of TA Associates, acquired Nighthawk Cloud, a provider of investigative data visualization and analysis.

Momentum, a Bath, N.Y.-based environmental services firm backed by Nonantum Capital Partners, acquired T&R Environmental, a provider of spill response and remediation services in upstate New York.

🌎 Novata, a New York provider of sustainability solutions for private markets, raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Motive Ventures and insiders Hamilton Lane and S&P Global.

🚑 The Riverside Company invested in CRIO, a Boston provider of e-clinical software that had raised around $17m from firms like Rally Ventures.

The Vistria Group launched Crestfield Risk, a resources platform for independent insurance agencies.

Public Offerings

Raspberry Pi, a British maker of low-priced PCs, confirmed that it picked London for its upcoming IPO. The company is controlled by a nonprofit foundation, but also has raised funding from backers like Arm and Lansdowne Partners.

SPAC Stuff

Acuren, a Texas provider of engineering and industrial testing services firm owned by American Securities, agreed to go public via Admiral Acquisition (LSE: ADMR), a SPAC led by Martin Franklin. The deal values Acuren at $1.85b, with the post-merger company to transfer its listing to New York.

🚑 Perceptive Capital Solutions, a health care SPAC formed by Perceptive Advisors, filed for a $75m IPO.

Liquidity Events

Autodesk (Nasdaq: ADSK) acquired Wonder Dynamics, an LA developer of VFX solutions for indie filmmakers that had raised over $10m from backers like Sunset Ventures, Founders Fund, Cyan Banister, Realize Tech Fund, Capital Factory, MaC Venture Capital, and Robert Schwab.

🚑 Biogen (Nasdaq: BIIB) agreed to buy Hi-Bio, a South SF biotech focused on immune-mediated diseases, for upwards of $1.8b in cash (including $1.15b upfront). Hi-Bio raised around $217m from firms like Arch Venture Partners, Monograph Capital, Viking Global Investors, Arkin Holdings, Alpha Wave Global, and Jeito Capital.

🚑 Centivo, a health plan for self-funded employers that's raised around $150m in VC funding, acquired Eden Health, a primary care and insurance navigation company that had raised $140m from Insight Partners, Meteor MCCK, MVP Capital Partners, Flexcap, Bossanova Investimentos, Amigos Health, Company Ventures, Max Ventures, PJC, Aspect Ventures, and Flare Capital Partners.

🚑 Doctolib, a French admin SaaS for doctors and medical workers that's valued by private investors at nearly €6b, acquired, a German provider of patient communications solutions that had raised around €4m from BonVenture, Knight Capital, Futury Capital, and IBB Ventures.

Energy Spectrum Capital agreed to sell midstream energy firm Pinnacle Midland to Phillips 66 (NYSE: PSX) for $550m in cash.

More M&A

Anglo American (LSE: AAL) rejected a sweetened $49.2b takeover offer from Australian miner BHP Group (ASX: BHP).

🎲 Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos denied having takeover interest in troubled Australian casino operator Star Entertainment (ASX: SGR), which had publicly identified Hard Rock as a suitor.

Saltchuk Resources of Seattle agreed to buy Overseas Shipholding Group (NYSE: OSG), a Tampa, Fla., liquid bulk carrier, for $950m in cash, or $8.50 per share.


Alcazar Energy, an infrastructure investment firm focused on utility-scale renewables projects in emerging markets, raised $490m for its second fund.

Entrepreneurial Equity Partners, a Chicago PE firm focused on the food, consumer, and packaging markets, raised $546m for its second fund.

🚑 Jo Natauri, former head of health care PE investing for Goldman Sachs, has launched a midmarket firm called Invidia Capital Management.

Paceline Equity Partners, a Dallas-based PE firm, raised $780m for its second fund.

Peterson Partners of Salt Lake City raised $265m for its 10th PE fund.

Riata Capital Group, a Dallas-based lower midmarket PE firm, raised $285m for its second fund.

It's Personnel

Jeff Mills joined VC firm Madrona as a partner and head of IR. He previously was with Gryphon Investors.

Morgan Stanley named Song Yang Lee as head of its Asia Pacific financial institutions group, per Bloomberg.

Christopher Olds joined British growth equity firm BGF as COO. He previously was CFO of Ultraleap.

Final Numbers

A table showing the 2024 Axios Harris 100 Poll. The top 10 companies are Nvidia, 3M, Fidelity Investments, Sony, Adidas, USAA, Honda Motor Company, Patagonia, Apple and Samsung.
Source: Harris Poll; Chart: Axios

Nvidia, which reports quarterly earnings after today's market close, scored top marks in the annual Axios/Harris Poll 100.

The big picture: Nearly two-thirds of included companies saw their reputation scores decline, Axios' Sara Fischer and Margaret Talev write.

Top three reasons given for the corporate reputation cuts:

  1. Not doing enough to keep prices fair from inflation (26%).
  2. Poor ethical behavior around pricing, wages and hiring (20%).
  3. Too much focus on cultural issues not key to consumers (18%).

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