Airport Parking Entrepreneur with Obama Ties Starting Vistria Group with $500M Target

A Chicago-based entrepreneur with ties to President Barack Obama is launching The Vistria Group with a fundraising target of $500 million, according to a person familiar with the firm.

Martin Nesbitt, co-CEO of The Vistria Group, played basketball with Obama while the two were college students and co-founded The Parking Spot in 1998 with Penny Pritzker, a member of the family tied to the Hyatt hotels and real estate fortune. The business was built up to operate at more than 12 major airports at the time of its sale in 2011 to Green Courte Partners LLC, a private equity investment firm. Nesbitt left the company at the end 2012.

Meanwhile, Pritzker was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on June 25 to become the next Secretary of Commerce under Obama. She also worked as co-chair of Obama’s re-election campaign and is a former member of the president’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

Vistria Group will focus on mid-market buyouts in health care, education and financial services. It’s working on a friends and family round of financing and will launch a larger round aimed at institutional limited partners in the fall.

The firm takes its name from a combination of Greek and Latin words meaning the power of three, to reflect the firm’s regulatory, financial and operating expertise. Nesbitt, who has worked on past campaigns for Obama, has maintained a public presence. This year, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel named him to an advisory committee studying the privatization of Midway Airport.

Kip Kirkpatrick, a co-founder of Water Street Healthcare Partners, and former Democratic candidate for Illinois treasurer, is also working at Vistria Group, according to a report by The Chicago Tribune.

Note: This story has been updated to remove a reference to Penny Pritzker in the first sentence.

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