2011 A Big Year For Madison Dearborn?

2011 could prove to be a critical year for Madison Dearborn Partners.

The Chicago-based shop has taken some lumps in recent years for reaching too far on big deals during the buyout boom and subsequently struggling to raise its sixth buyout fund. And its previous fund, a 2006 vintage, has a lot to prove, according to data from CalPERS.

The firm was among the most active during the buyout boom. Of 50 of the largest LBOs of U.S.-based targets from 2005 through 2007 (excluding real estate) that are still owned by the same sponsor or sponsor group, Madison Dearborn is an owner or part-owner of five, according to a Thomson Reuters-sourced data run by sister magazine Buyouts. They are Nuveen Investments Inc., CDW Corp., Yankee Candle Co. Inc., VWR International Inc. and Univision Communications Inc. You have to think Madison Dearborn (and its co-investors) would like to exit some of these companies soon, perhaps via the IPO market.

Brief notes on the performance of these companies:

• CDW Corp. and Univision seem to have stabilized somewhat after struggling for some time with debt and other issues. CDW posted adjusted EBITDA of $163.6 million for the three months ended 2010, up from $134.8 million for the same period last year (CDW, along with Univision, Nuveen, Yankee Candle and VWR, has publicly traded debt).

• Univision—bought with a group of other shops for $13.7 billion more than three years ago—recently refinanced a hardy portion of its debt, struck a deal with a Mexican television network analysts believe will give it more flexibility to meet debt payments, and saw some improvement in its revenue and EBITDA in 2010.

• Nuveen Investments has total assets under management of $162.8 billion as of Sept. 30, 2010.

• Yankee Candle generated net income of $8.8 million for the third quarter of 2010, compared to a net loss of $0.7 million for the same period in 2009. Retail and wholesale sales were also up for the quarter.

• VWR International had net sales of $903 million for the quarter ended Sept. 30, compared to $902 million for the same period in 2009.

Executives at the firm declined to comment.

Madison Dearborn remains active on the deal front; the PE firm made three platform acquisitions last year: BWAY Holding Company, a maker of containers such as paint cans and plastic drums and bottles, acquired for $915 million; Fieldglass Inc., a company that provides software that helps companies manage their employees, acquired for $220 million; and TransUnion, a company that helps businesses and consumers manage their credit.

In case you’re curious, the other firms that have the most companies on the top-50 list of 2005-2007 U.S.-based LBOs still owned by the same sponsor or sponsor group are The Blackstone Group and Bain Capital, with at least eight each; The Carlyle Group, with at least six; and Thomas H. Lee Partners, with at least five.

Look for more analysis on the 2011 PE-backed IPO market in the next edition of Buyouts.