How TCW Met Magic Johnson, Formed “Capital Assist”

At yesterday’s Buyouts West conference, Deborah Gage interviewed Mark L. Attanasio, managing director at TCW. As Dan noted in this morning’s peHUB Wire, the Milwaukee Brewers owner said he wouldn’t trade Prince Fielder.

More closely related private equity, he discussed the formation of TCW’s new joint venture with Magic Johnson. How does a mid-market mezzanine lender get hooked up with a former L.A. Lakers great? This is how:

“I went over to Ron Burkle’s place to visit the Stanley cup. Ron owns the (Pittsburgh) Penguins, and they won the Stanley Cup, and I though maybe some of that good karma would wear off on the Brewers. It didn’t. What did wear off was Eric Holoman, the President of Magic Johnson Enterprises and Magic’s business partner. We recognized that, greater than anything we might do in terms of financing MJE’s companies would be to figure out what to do about the lending gap created by the fall of companies like CIT and American Capital. We have an underserved market in middle market finance.”

Attanasio told the LA Times that Johnson’s company has “a demonstrated expertise [in] urban areas that we do not have at TCW.”

They decided to name the fund Capital Assist, a nod to Magic Johnson’s role as one of the leading assist-makers in the NBA, he said. Attanasio alternates between calling Mr. Johnson Magic and his given name, Earvin, he added.

He said the effort has gathered some capital commitments and will be officially entering the market to raise an undisclosed amount of capital for to lend to middle market companies. Capital Assist will begin to make loans in the first quarter, he said.

View all coverage of Buyouts West here.