Jeff Walker Leaves PE for Nonprofit Work

Jeff Walker’s slow exit from private equity hit the gas last month, when he formally opted to step down as chairman of buyout firm CCMP Capital Advisors. The move will become effective sometime later this summer, at which point Walker will devote almost all of his time to non-profit activities. We’re also hoping he’ll have a few extra minutes to resume posting in the Vox Populi section of peHUB (his first and last entry was on our first day of operation).

Walker co-founded CCMP back in 1984, as a captive venture capital and buyout unit of Chemical Bank. It then became known as Chase Capital Partners, and ramped up into one of the market’s most active investors. Sometimes this worked out well, but there also were some major hiccups. My first-ever magazine cover was about CCP, with a drawing of a faucet with dollars flowing out of it. Soon after, Chase would begin its quarterly earnings calls by blaming losses on Walker and company.

By the time that Chase was acquired by JPMorgan, the relationship was beginning to sour a bit. The eventual culmination was a spinout plan announced in early 2005, whereby (rechristened) JPMorgan Partners would split into two independent units: CCMP Capital for growth equity and buyouts, and Panorama Capital for venture capital. Walker stayed on the buyout side as CEO, with that group closing its first independent fund last year with $3.4 billion. So far it has made three deals, and has around 80% of its capital still uncommitted.

As the fundraising wound down, Walker transitioned into a chairmanship role – with partner Steve Murray taking over as CEO. As Murray said at the time: “It was really just a practical matter, in that the transition of the title reflected the way the business had been operating for the last few years. Jeff focuses on strategy and high-level relationships, whereas I’m more focused on origination and execution on the investment side.”

But that move looks like it was really an indication that Walker had other interests on the brain. The firm informed LPs last month that Walker would be stepping down altogether, which has rubbed a few the wrong way. “They raise the fund with Jeff involved, and then he leaves once they have all the commitments,” says one investor. “That doesn’t feel too good.”

Walker acknowledged some minor criticism, but says most LPs he and the firm talked to are fine with the move. “I’m helping with the transition and remain a big investor in CCMP, and a big supporter of the team,” he says. “LPs always knew that I wouldn’t be part of the next fund anyway, and I’ll certainly be making myself available when needed by CCMP… I’ve been in private equity for 24 years, and felt the time was right to do something else.”

That second act has a number of parts. One is as chairman of Millennium Promise, a nonprofit focused on alleviating poverty in Africa by building sustainable resources within villages. It also has a malaria prevention program, and so far raised $120 million.

He also is involved in a project called NPower New York, which helps bridge the digital divide by helping inner city communities gain access to computers and computer skills training. Also involved in NPower is Jerry Colonna, a venture capitalist and former colleague of Walker’s.

“I may make a couple of investments on my own, but most of my private equity expertise will now go toward nonprofit work, where I think it can be applicable,” Walker says.