Dec 6, 2019

Axios Pro Rata

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Top of the Morning

Source: Giphy

Mark Wiseman is out at BlackRock, where he was considered a possible successor to CEO Larry Fink, after engaging in a consensual affair with a subordinate without disclosing it to the company.

  • He's already been removed from the company website, and emails to his BlackRock account bounce back.
  • Wiseman, whose wife also works at BlackRock, joined in 2016 after leading the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.
  • He was credited at CPPIB with developing its direct private equity investment strategy, part of the "Canadian model" that has become the envy of U.S. public pension funds.
    • It was something he was helping to adapt to BlackRock, both via a new "long term capital" fund and by bidding to advise CalPERS on its own direct investment plan (which has since been put on ice).
  • A BlackRock spokesman cautioned Axios not to overstate Wiseman's role in private equity, saying his primary job was as global head of active equities.
    • His part-time job was chairman of BlackRock Alternative Investors — which includes PE, hedge funds, etc. — where group head Edwin Conway remains in place (and never reported directly to Wiseman).
    • Wiseman also served on the BAI investment committees and chaired the LTC fund, which will continue to be led by Andre Bourbonnais.

This seems pretty simple:

  1. Don't sleep with subordinates.
  2. If you feel you must, tell HR.
  3. But if you don't want to tell HR, perhaps because your spouse also works at the same company, refer back to #1.

Tea leaves: Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, plus his two co-founders, have agreed to an on-stage interview at the Code Conference, which takes place late next May.

  • Companies typically implement a quiet period once publicly filing for an IPO, and then 25 days after going public (even if via direct listing).
  • So... This may mean that Airbnb plans to go public by early April, otherwise in the second-half of 2020 (assuming it doesn't want to price into the summer doldrums).

On the docket: Laurence Allen, CEO of PE secondaries trading platform NYPPEX, was sued yesterday by the NY AG for alleged fraud. In short, he's accused of stealing investor capital.

  • Allen denies the charges, claiming to PE Hub that the AG is "attempting to overturn amendments to a private equity fund that were drafted by outside legal counsel and approved by the required majority of sophisticated limited partners."

🎧 Pro Rata Podcast digs into USMCA. What's in it, what might be added, what might be removed, and why Mexico is beginning to balk. Listen here.


Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

General Motors and South Korea's LG Chem each will invest $1.15 billion into a new joint venture to mass-produce battery cells for electric vehicles.

  • Why it's the BFD: The new plant will be built in Lordstown, the same Northeast Ohio burg where GM closed an auto assembly plant earlier this year, costing 1,200 workers their jobs. This effort is expected to employ more than 1,100 people, although not until 2023.
  • Bottom line: "The cell manufacturing plant will have an annual capacity of more than 30 gigawatt-hours, with flexibility for expansion, making it one of the world's largest battery factories." — Joann Muller, Axios
Venture Capital Deals

Vroom, a New York-based platform for buying and selling used vehicles, raised $254 million in Series H funding. Durable Capital Partners led, and was joined by T Rowe Price and L Catterton.

🚑 Black Diamond Therapeutics, a Cambridge, Mass.-based cancer precision medicine company, raised $85 million in Series C funding led by Boxer Capital.

Wildlife Studios, a San Francisco-based mobile gaming studios whose titles include Zooba, raised $60 million in Series A funding. Benchmark led, and was joined by Bessemer Venture Partners.

🚑 Akoyo Biosciences, a Menlo Park-based spatial biology startup, raised $50 million in Series D funding. Piper Jaffray Merchant Banking led, and was joined by Telegraph Hill Partners, Agilent Technologies, and Innovatus Capital Partners.

Ogury, a London-based mobile marketing engine, raised $50 million led by Idinvest Partners.

Cyberhaven, a Palo Alto-based cybersecurity startup focused on data behavior analytics, raised $13 million in Series A funding co-led by Vertex Ventures and Costanoa Ventures.

Nutrati, a Richmond-based plant-based food company, raised $12.7 million in Series C funding. Manna Tree Partners led, and was joined by Open Prairie.

😁 Uniform Teeth, a San Francisco-based teeth straightening startup, raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Canaan Partners.

Brideside, a Chicago-based wedding and bridesmaid dress e-tailer, raised $7 million in Series A funding. Beringea led, and was joined by Sawdust Ventures.

🚑 Apostrophe, an Oakland-based dermatology telemedicine startup, raised $6 million in seed funding. SignalFire led, and was joined by FJ Labs.

Workona, a San Mateo, Calif.-based cloud work management platform, raised $6 million in seed funding from K9 Ventures and August Capital.

Boardable, an Indianapolis-based management platform for nonprofit boards of directors, raised $3 million in seed funding from High Alpha Capital, VisionTech, and Collina Ventures.

RaySecur, a Cambridge, Mass.-based developer of mailroom security scanners, raised $3 million in seed funding led by One Way Ventures.

Private Equity Deals

The Blackstone Group, Brookfield Asset Management, and Greystar Real Estate Partners each are expected to bid for iQ Student Accommodation, a British student housing provider owned by Wellcome Trust that could fetch around £4 billion, per Bloomberg.

Midwest Composite Technologies, a Heartland, Wis.-based portfolio company of Core Industrial Partners, acquired Toledo, Ohio-based digital manufacturer ICOMold.

One World Fitness, a Centre Partners portfolio company that owns Planet Fitness clubs in the Philadelphia and New Jersey markets, acquired San Diego Fitness.

Wind Point Partners invested in Tropicale Foods, an Ontario, Calif.-based maker of frozen novelty products under the Helados Mexico brand.

Public Offerings

The Gores Group is setting up its fourth SPAC, with plans to raise $400 million via an IPO. The Los Angeles-based private equity firm's past SPACs have bought such companies as Hostess Brands and Verra Mobility.

Sanlorenzo, an Italian luxury yacht maker, raised €72 million in a Milan IPO at a market cap of €552 million.

Liquidity Events

🚑 Lion Capital is seeking a buyer for Perricone MD, a San Francisco-based anti-aging skincare brand that could fetch over $200 million, per Bloomberg.

Oakley Capital hired Arma Partners to find a buyer for WebPros, a Swiss webhosting software company that could fetch between $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion, per Reuters.

More M&A

iDreamSky (HK: 1119), in which Tencent has nearly a 20% stake, is in talks to buy rival Chinese gaming company Leyou (HK: 1089) for around $1.4 billion, per Bloomberg.

Phoenix Group Holdings (LSE: PHNX) agreed to buy the British business of Swiss Re (SWX: SREN) for around $4.1 billion in cash and stock.

PKN Orlen, Poland’s state-owned oil refiner, will take over state electric utility Energa.

UBS Group’s asset management arm is considering a sale of its ETF and mutual fund platform, which could be worth over $500 million, per Bloomberg.


🚑 Kaiser Permanente Ventures raised $141 million for its fifth fund. LPs include parent company Kaiser Permanente, Tufts Health Plan, Henry Ford Health System, and Highmark Health.

It's Personnel

🚑 Isaac Ciechanover joined Polaris Partners as a San Francisco-based partner focused on healthcare. He previously founded and led Atara Biotherapeutics (Nasdaq: ATRA).

Final Numbers
Expand chart
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

Per Axios' Courtenay Brown:

  • The economy added 266,000 jobs in November, above the 187,000 economists expected, as the unemployment rate fell back to a 50-year low of 3.5%.
  • The number reflects, in part, striking GM workers returning to work. The report, which also included upward revisions for prior months' job gains, also shows employers haven't pulled back on hiring, despite fears of a trade-war driven economic slowdown.

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