PE Shop, Formed To Back Insurance Companies, Seeks $250M

Dowling Capital Partners has amassed a modest war chest on its way to raising what looks like a debut fund earmarked for private-equity investments in the insurance industry, including insurance distribution, sister magazine Buyouts has learned.

The Farmington, Conn.-based firm has secured $87.4 million of the $250 million that it seeks, according to its Form D filed earlier this month with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The principals of the fund, based on the filing, are John R. Casey (listed as managing director of the general partner), Jeffery B. Cappel, Vincent J. Dowling and David K. Zwiener.

The firm appears to be shunning the spotlight—at least for now. Its Web site consists of a few sentences on a single page (although a new site is promised). The phone number listed for the firm on the Form D produces a busy signal.

Dowling, who goes by “VJ,” is a managing partner at Dowling & Partners Securities, a research boutique that specializes in insurance equities and that shares the same address as Dowling Capital Partners. Responding to a reporter who called seeking to talk to VJ, the woman answering the phone at the research firm said, “I’m sorry but Dowling & Partners doesn’t take press calls.” In an e-mail an industry source described VJ as “about as secretive as they come,” although he is quoted in a recent issue of the trade magazine Business Insurance, published by Crain Communications Inc. More about the principals and their firm:

• Zwiener recently served a one-year term as a director at CNO Financial Group Inc., an insurance company previously called Conseco Inc. According to the CNO Web site, he served from 1997 to 2007 as president and COO of the property and casualty operations at Hartford Financial Services Group Inc.

• Cappel is described in an April Business Wire press release as a “long-time investor in insurance distribution.” According to the release, he is the former CEO of Hales & Co., an M&A advisory firm whose partners have teamed with the partners of Dowling & Partners to provide advisory services in the insurance industry. The new firm is called Dowling Hales.

• The management of Dowling Capital Partners “has over 80 years of senior level industry experience, including insurance-related private equity investment management, investment banking, industry research and operational and board-level roles within major insurance, reinsurance and brokerage companies,” according to the Web site.

• The minimum commitment to the fund by outside investors is $5 million, according to the Form D.

• The annual management fee is 2 percent of commitments during the investment period, and 1.5 percent of net invested capital afterward.

David Toll is editor-in-charge of Buyouts Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @davidmtoll. Follow Buyouts tweets @Buyouts. For information on how to subscribe, contact Greg Winterton at greg.winterton@thomsonreuters.com.