New PE firm Wisconsin River Partners debuts

Wisconsin River Partners, a new private equity firm, has launched. The firm will focus on acquiring, holding and developing mid-market companies in Central and Northern Wisconsin. Currently, WRP is targeting companies in the $5 million to $50 million revenue range. Kevin Kraft and Jim Frings founded WRP.


WAUSAU, Wis. — A new central Wisconsin private equity firm launches with a unique mission to build not only investor wealth, but stronger local businesses and communities.

Wisconsin River Partners (WRP), a private equity independent sponsor, aims to attract like-minded, mission-focused investors to acquire, hold and develop mid-market companies in Central and Northern Wisconsin. WRP founders designed the entity with a long-term local investment strategy to grow acquired companies’ revenues and build investor wealth.

Kevin Kraft, a Wausau manufacturing and financial services veteran, and Jim Frings, a seasoned executive in the manufacturing, real estate and technology sectors, shared similar visions for a private equity group and founded WRP.

“Jim and I have been in the trenches as owners and operators of family and closely held businesses,” said Kraft, WRP’s managing director. “As fewer businesses are being passed down to the next generation, more owners are faced with the difficult decision of how to sell their business and retire.”

WRP will provide business owners with a customized approach to selling their business, with operational and strategic support from Kraft and Frings. Each of WRP’s portfolio companies will have an advisory board including both partners and additional investors with industry experience. WRP will provide regular reporting of financial and operating performance to investors as part of its transparent governance charter.

“We are very different than private equity firms with a ‘buy, maximize short term financial results and flip’ mentality that too often slash costs and lay off employees,” said Kraft. “Wisconsin River Partners has a long-term investment strategy which involves bringing in the right strategic team to build an acquired company’s book of business and value, taking it from financial stability to increasingly greater profit margins.”

Kraft stated that there is not one buyout strategy that will fit all companies and owners. He noted that some owners want to completely retire and leave the business, while others wish to continue with some managing interest.

“It’s a sellers’ market and we’re excited to craft the right deal and best fit for our fellow Wisconsin business owners,” said Frings. “We will provide owners options and strategic counsel throughout the deal, and operational counsel to the new entity after.”

WRP recently acquired Profile Finishing Systems, Inc. with locations in Waukesha and Kaukauna, Wisconsin, and is looking to acquire additional stable companies in the $5 million to $50 million revenue range.

According to Kraft, there has been a trend of investors who are moving their money from Wall Street to local privately held businesses, while making a respectable return. The term for this type of investing is “mission” or “impact” investing.

“Our investor network is mixed, but we primarily work with high-net-worth individuals who are looking to invest in a good deal but want to do good for the local economy at the same time,” said Kraft. “These are higher-risk investments and only individuals with a higher-risk tolerance should consider these types of investments. Other investor types include family offices, foundations and institutions.”