PE Week Wire — Friday, November 19

Get The Wire in your inbox each morning! Just send us an email.


Random Ramblings

Just a few quick notes as we wait for either Sequoia Capital or Kleiner Perkins so sell some of their “unlocked” Google shares.

1. David Hornick of August Capital has an interesting post on the VentureBlog site right now, which discusses some unexpected information that can be found by scouring SEC filings. For example, Tumbleweed Communications Corp. (Nasdaq: TMWD) recently registered some common stock in order to facilitate its acquisition of Sequoia Capital portfolio company Corvigo Inc. By doing so, however, Tumbleweed disclosed every limited partner in Sequoia Capital’s tenth fund. Most of the usual suspects are there (Harvard, Yale, Duke, HarbourVest, Ford Foundation, etc.), but Hornick correctly asserts that no public pension systems are on the list, which he then uses to push a “Look at what disclosure has wrought” argument. It is worth noting, however, that the list actually does include public institutions, albeit of the endowment variety. According to the filing, Sequoia X includes limited partners like the University of Calif! ornia (UC) and what seems to be something affiliated with the University of Virginia.

It’s too bad that Hornick missed the UC reference, because its very existence is fascinating (to me at least, but I get easily excited). Last year, UC got sued for refusing the disclosure performance data on its venture capital and private equity funds. It lost. In an appeal, however, UC included a letter sent from Sequoia Capital to the University of Michigan, which already had disclosed performance data in response to FOIA requests. The letter – penned by Mike Moritz – evicted University of Michigan from a new Sequoia fund (Fund XI), and requested that the school use its “best efforts to sell off all the University’s positions in other Sequoia Capital Partnerships.” You might notice that University of Michigan is not listed in the SEC filing, which means that it complied with the request (I asked the school about the sale, but did not get a response – under a new law, public institutions in Michigan don’t have to answer such questions anymore). The letter didn’t help, a! nd UC was forced to publicly disclose fund-specific performance data, including that of Sequoia Capital.

I always assumed that Sequoia had sent an eviction letter to UC, like it had done with Michigan. After all, disclosure is disclosure. But it likely didn’t happen, since UC is still listed as a limited partner. Huh? The most likely scenario is that the Michigan action was, at its core, a ploy to aid UC in its appeal. Once UC lost, the goal was moot. It also is possible that such a letter was, indeed, sent to UC, but the school declined to sell its Fund X position. Michigan was under no legal obligation to sell old stakes, although it did so anyway. Finally — and this is the real cynical view — the success of Google has eradicated Sequoia’s fear of fund performance disclosure. Any way you slice it, it’s a curious development. 

2. Jerry Borrell, our roving reporter in Asia, has two pieces of news to share: First, Dragon Capital of Vietnam has closed its third venture capital fund with $60 million. Second, he writes in to say that Korea will be implementing some major changes in its private equity regulations on December 6. On their face, the new regulations seem good for Korea-based investors (who have essentially been discriminated against for the benefit of foreign groups), but not everyone is happy. More on that in Monday’s print edition of PE Week. On an unrelated note, that issue also will have details on what is believed to be the largest secondary sale of LP interests from a state pension system.

Have a great weekend…

Email Dan Primack

Apollo Management has agreed to acquire Goodman Global Holdings Inc., a Houston, Texas-based manufacturer of air conditioning and heating equipment, for approximately $1.43 billion. The deal is expected to close in Q1 2005, with debt being provided by J.P. Morgan Securities, UBS Securities and Credit Suisse First Boston.

Accelerator Corp., a Seattle-based biotech investment and development company, has received $11.8 million in new funding from Amgen Ventures and OVP Venture Partners. In conjunction with the deal, Amgen and OVP also invested in Accelerator portfolio companies ViVax Corp. and VLST Corp. Existing Accelerator investors include MPM Capital, ARCH Venture Partners, Versant Ventures, Alexandria Real Estate Equities and the Institute for Systems Biology. The firm now has $21.8 million in committed capital, of which $15.35 million remains for future investments.

PortalPlayer Inc., a Santa Clara, Calif.-based fabless semiconductor company for manufacturers of personal media players, will begin trading on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol PLAY. The company priced 6.25 million common shares at $17 per share, for a total IPO take of approximately $106.25 million. It had originally filed to price its shares at $11 to $13 per share, and later bumped the range up to $14 to $16 per share. PortalPlayer has raised $80 million in VC funding since its 1999 inception, including a $42 million recap round in 2002. Significant shareholders include JPMorgan Partners, Shamrock Holdings, Investcorp, CIBC World Markets and LSI Logic Corp.

Eliyon Technologies Corp., a Cambridge, Mass.-based provider of business search engine solutions, has received an undisclosed amount of first-round funding from Vulcan Capital. This is the second tranche of a deal first announced over the summer, which included $7 million from Venrock Associates. Eliyon was spun out of Corex Technologies Corp. in 1999, and still counts Corex VC backers Flagship Ventures, Commonwealth Capital and Ascent Venture Partners as shareholders. (Note: Eliyon is a content partner of Thomson Venture Economics, publisher of the PE Week Wire).

The Vendare Group, a Sherman, Oaks, Calif.-based online media and marketing company, has raised an undisclosed amount of private equity funding from Insight Venture Partners.

G.I. Joe’s Inc., a Wilsonville, Ore.-based sports and automotive retailer, has received an $11.5 million private equity investment from Los Angeles-based Nogales Investors.

Texas Pacific Group has agreed to acquire Celerity Group Inc., a Milipitas, Calif.-based provider of gas and chemical deliver process modules used in the manufacturing of semiconductors, flat panel displays and related products. No pricing details were disclosed, but the deal includes an equity investment from TPG, assumed debt and the co-investment and rollover of existing equity held by existing investors like Ares Management, Gryphon Investors and Tennenbaum Capital Partners. The entire transaction is expected to close by year-end, at which point Celerity will withdraw its IPO registration papers from the SEC.

ABN AMRO Capital has agreed to sponsor a management buyout of Borstlap Group, a Netherlands-based distributor of fasteners worldwide. Under terms of the transaction, ABN AMRO will acquire an 85% ownership position in Borstlap, with company management holding the remaining equity. Debt financing will be provided by ABN AMRO’s leveraged finance group. No pricing details were disclosed.

Platinum Equity has agreed to purchase the IT Solutions unit of General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) for an undisclosed amount. IT Solutions has 1,700 employees and is headquartered in Erlanger, Ky. Once the deal is closed, Platinum will combine IT Solutions with CompuCom Systems Inc., which Platinum acquired in October.

Hicks Muse (Europe) has agreed to acquire a majority position in London-based shoe company Jimmy Choo. The deal values Jimmy Choo at GBP 101 million.

Hispania Capital Partners has completed its sale of La Raza publisher PrensAmerica Holdings Corp. to ImpreMedia LLC. No financial terms were disclosed.

The European Union Commission has approved Apax Partners and Cinven Group‘s proposed Euro 2.1 billion acquisition of VNU NV‘s directories unit.

Monolithic Power Systems Inc., a Los Gatos, Calif.-based analog and mixed-signal semiconductor company, will begin trading on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol MPWR. The company priced 5.5 million shares at $8.50 per share (upper part of $7-$9 range), for a total IPO take of approximately $46.8 million. Monolithic had raised around $26 million in VC funding since its 1997 inception, with investors including InveStar Capital, BA Venture Partners and Acer Technology Ventures.

Ninetowns Digital World Trade Holdings Ltd., a Beijing, China-based provider of software that streamlines the import and export process in China, has set its proposed IPO terms to 9.6 million American deposit shares (ADS) being offered at between $10 and $12 per ADS. The company hopes to price on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol NINE, and lists a group of significant shareholders that includes AIG Asian Opportunity Fund, CFM Investments Ltd., China Equity Associates, Huitung Investments Ltd., Titan Venture Capital, MMFI CAPI Venture Investments and UOB Venture (Shenzhen) Ltd.

KnowledgePlanet, a Reston, Va.-based provider of corporate training services, has acquired Knowledge Impact Inc., a Southborough, Mass.-based provider of application simulation solutions. No financial terms were disclosed. KnowledgePlanet has raised around $125 million in VC funding since its 1999 inception, from investors like HarbourVest Partners, AIG Capital Partners, Arcadia Management, GE Equity, Dain Rauscher and Wachovia. Knowledge Impact has raised over $55 million in VC funding from firms like Ironside Ventures, Tudor Ventures, Boston Millennia Partners and Massachusetts Capital Resource Co.

Venture Strategy Partners has promoted Vince Vannelli to the position of general partner. He had been a venture partner with the San Francisco-based firm since 2002 and, before that, was with Inktomi Corp. as general manager of the network products division.

Simon Guenzl has joined Paul Capital Partners as a principal focused on secondary private equity transactions. He most recently served as a vice president with Sprout Group. In other Paul Capital news, Suzanne Rombeau has joined the firm’s secondary private equity practice as an analyst. She received her MBA from Wharton this past June, and has worked with such firms as Morgan Stanley, Carey International and McCown de Leeuw. 

Darwin Venture Capital has held a first close on its inaugural fund-of-funds with $42.12 million in LP commitments from such groups as the San Diego County Employees’ Retirement Association, the Rasmuson Foundation and the University of California. Darwin hopes to hold a final close on $100 million sometime next year.


   Thursday, November 18

Breakfast Tales

Apologies for tardiness this morning, but I spent most of the morning at an Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) breakfast over at the Boston Harbor Hotel. The keynote address was given by Brian Conway, a managing director with private equity firm TA Associates. Brian gave a general market overview and made some worthy observations – including his belief that capital overhang is still prevalent in both the general partner and limited partner communities. He also told an interesting story about how TA bought Tempur-Pedic International, and who wasn’t allowed in due to a previous botched deal in the mattress space (apparently referred to as the “burning bed” deal).

Moving on to actual news: At 2pm this afternoon, TA Associates will close on a new fund raised almost entirely from limited partners based outside of the United States. I reported on this vehicle back in May (click here), when it was targeting $500 million and a December close. Not only is it finishing up a bit early, but it will close with $800 million. The fund will co-invest with the $2 billion TA IX, which was raised in 2000 with most of its commitments coming from U.S. investors. Once the firm closes its next domestic fund (marketing begins sometime next year), then the “foreign LP” fund will co-invest alongside it. Again, go here if the preceding sentences were confusing.

Unrelated Fund Note: Some of you have asked about the progress of Elevation Partners, the media-focused buyout shop that includes U2 front-man Bono as a general partner. It had planned to hold a $1 billion-plus first close in late October, with a final close on approximately $1.5 billion in early January. The first close now has been pushed back to next month, with the final close still slated for January.

Email Dan Primack

Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) has agreed to sell Telecordia Technologies Inc. to Warburg Pincus and Providence Equity Partners for approximately $1.35 billion in cash. Warburg and Providence are equal equity partners on the deal. Telcordia is a Piscataway, N.J.-based telecom software company originally formed by AT&T, and sold for $700 million to SAIC in 1999.

SunGard Data Systems Inc. (NYSE: SDS) has agreed to acquire Inflow Inc., a Denver-based provider of datacenter and outsourced IT services. No financial terms were disclosed for the deal, which is expected to close next quarter. Inflow has raised nearly $300 million in total private equity funding since its 1997 inception. This includes a $35 million infusion in 2001 at a post-money valuation of over $520 million, and a $35 million recap deal one year later at a post-money valuation of approximately $45.5 million. Company investors include the Bank of Montreal, Centennial Ventures, Citizens Capital, Cornerstone Equity Investors, Hexagon Investments, Meritage Private Equity, PNC Equity Management, Spire Capital, Stolberg Equity Partners and Telecom Partners.

Mark Cree has joined both Vesbridge Partners and El Dorado Ventures as an entrepreneur-in-residence, focused on the enterprise networking, web services and security markets. He also will be serving as a venture partner at Vesbridge. Cree most recently served as general manager of the storage router business unit of Cisco Systems, which is 2000 had acquired a company — NuSpeed Internet Systems – that Cree had co-founded and run. NuSpeed had received VC funding from both El Dorado Ventures and Crescendo Venture Management, the latter of which once included current Vesbridge senior managing director Jeff Hinck as a general partner.

Airwide Solutions (f.k.a. Taral Networks), a Reading, UK-based provider of messaging and content delivery management solutions, has raised $6.25 million in new Series C funding. This follows an earlier $10 million close on the round. Artiman Ventures came in as a new investor on the second tranche, joining existing backers like Key Venture Partners, Kodiak Venture Partners and Axiom Ventures.

Digital Bridges Ltd., UK-based provider of mobile entertainment solutions, has raised $18 million in third-round funding from existing investors Apax Partners and Argo Global Capital. The company now has raised $58 million in total VC funding since its 1998 inception.

ThumbPlay Inc., a New York-based distributor of wireless content, announced its formation today. It has received an undisclosed amount of VC funding from I-Hatch Ventures and Redwood Partners, and has begun a marketing campaign that features rapper Jay-Z.

Fuego, a Plano, Texas-based provider of business process management (BPO) solutions, has raised $5 million in new VC funding. Return backers included Trinity Ventures, Sevin Rosen Funds, Stephens Group, SSM Ventures and Star Ventures. The company has raised over $70 million in total VC funding since its 1996 inception.

Emptoris Inc., a Burlington, Mass.-based provider of enterprise supply management solutions, has raised $12 million in Series D funding. New investor ABS Capital Partners joined return backers Menlo Ventures and HarbourVest Partners. The company has raised over $52 million in total VC funding since its 1999 inception.

TA Associates of Boston has agreed to sponsor a $53 million recapitalization of Florida Career College, a Hialeah, Fla.-based operator of for-profit, post-secondary education facilities.

Ares Management, a Los Angeles-based buyout firm, reportedly has agreed to acquire BFMA Holding Corp., the parent company of Marietta Corp. No financial terms were disclosed. Marietta is a Cortland, N.Y.-based provider of soaps and shampoos to hotels. The deal is expected to close by year-end.

Bridgepoint, a UK-based buyout firm, has acquired Italy-based motor caravan provider Societa Europea Autocaravan (SEA) for an undisclosed amount.

GTCR Golder Rauner has agreed to make an equity investment in NewQuest Health Solutions LLC, a Nashville, Tenn.-based managed care organization. No financial terms were disclosed. Brentwood Capital adivosrs advised NewQuest on the deal.

Iowa Telecommunications Services Inc., a Newton, Iowa-based provider of telecom services in rural Iowa, will begin trading on the NYSE under ticker symbol IWA. The company priced around 19.1 million common shares at $19 per share (middle of its $18-$20 range), for a total IPO take of approximately $363.1 million. In its original filing, Iowa Telecom planned to offer income deposit shares (IDS), but later changed the deal to involve common stock. Significant shareholders include ING Braings, BancBoston Ventures and TIAA-CREF.

PRA International, a McLean, Va.-based contract medical research organization, will begin trading on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol PRAI. The company priced six million common shares at $19 per share (above its $16-$18 range), for a total IPO take of approximately $114 million. The company is majority-owned by Genstar Capital, with other significant shareholders including Caisse de depot et Placement du Quebec, BNP Paribas and Toronto Dominion Bank.

Symmetry Medical Inc., a Warsaw, Ind.-based provider of equipment for orthopedic device manufacturers, has reduced its IPO offering terms. The company originally filed to price ten million common shares at between $14 and $16 per share, but now has reduced the number of offered shares to eight million and the proposed price range to $14 to $16 per share. Symmetry Medical was acquired in October 2000 by funds affiliated with Olympus Partners, while Windjammer Capital Management also is listed as a significant shareholder.

PortalPlayer Inc., a Santa Clara, Calif.-based fabless semiconductor company for manufacturers of personal media players, has increased its proposed IPO price range from $11 to $13 per common share, to $14 to $16 per common share. The company still plans to offer 6.25 million shares. PortalPlayer has raised $80 million in VC funding since its 1999 inception, including a $42 million recap round in 2002. Significant shareholders include JPMorgan Partners, Shamrock Holdings, Investcorp, CIBC World Markets and LSI Logic Corp.

HouseValues Inc., a Bellevue, Wash.-based provider of online marketing solutions for residential real estate agents, has set its proposed IPO terms to 6.25 million common shares being offered at between $10 and $12 per share. The company has raised over $16 million in venture capital funding, including a $14.5 million infusion earlier this year from William Blair Capital Partners at a post-money valuation of approximately $55 million.

Alan Heller has joined American Pharmaceutical Partners Inc. (Nasdaq: APPX) as president and CEO. He most recently served as an advisor on life sciences transactions to private equity firm One Equity Partners and, before that, was president of global renal operations at Baxter Healthcare Corp.

Keith Grinstein, a partner with VC firm Second Avenue Partners, has joined the board of Labor Ready Inc. (NYSE: LRW).

Michael McKinnon is one of fourteen new partners at law firm Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP. He works out of the firm’s Orange County, Calif. office, and focuses on corporate matters, including venture capital, private equity and M&A transactions.

William Washecka has been hired as CFO of Prestwick Pharmaceuticals Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based drug company focused on the central nervous system. He previously served as CFO of Usinterworking Inc. and, before that, was with Ernst & Young as a senior partner and founder of that firm’s high tech and emerging business practice in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Hamilton Lane, a Bala Cynwyd, Pa.-based private equity asset management firm, has agreed to acquire a controlling stake in The Richcourt Group, a New York-based hedge fund-of-funds management firm. Richcourt currently manages $1.5 billion in hedge fund assets, and is wholly-owned by the CITCO Group Ltd. and its CITCO Fund Services affiliate. No financial terms were disclosed on the deal, with will be competed within the next 15 days.

Cipio Partners has acquired the entire venture portfolio of DaimlerChrysler Venture, the VC arm of automaker DaimlerChrysler AG (NYSE: DCX). The venture group quit making new investments last year. No price on the assets was disclosed.

Starfish Ventures Pty Ltd., an Australia-based venture capital firm focused on technology investments, has closed its first fund with Au$123 million (approx. US$95.8 million).

Maveron LLC, a Seattle-based venture capital firm, has closed its third fund with $200 million in limited partner commitments. Investors include Yale University, MIT, Princeton University, The MacArthur Foundation, Mayo Foundation, Carnegie Corp. of New York, Knightsbridge Advisors and Legacy Venture.

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle yesterday unveiled a $750 million program designed to bolster in-state stem cell research and other scientific endeavors. The plan includes $132 million for a medical research facility, while Doyle also said that he would ask the Wisconsin Department of Commerce to increase its emphasis on providing venture capital, tax credits and loans to scientists who want to start companies.

Index Development Partners Inc. (OTC: IXDP) has raised $9 million via a private placement of 56.25 million shares of common stock at $0.16 per share. Hedge fund professional Michael Steinhardt led the deal, and was joined by Quantitative Financial Strategies Inc. and private equity firm RRE Ventures.


   Wednesday, November 17


A Stealth Explanation?

This past Sunday’s edition of the San Jose Mercury News included a brief Q&A with three partners from legendary venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers. It led off with a question about Google, and then came the following exchange:

·          Q: The [MoneyTree] venture capital survey shows a decline in VC investing (in the third quarter), but some suggest one reason may be artificial: Start-ups are trying to stay under the radar longer and not announcing their VC funding.

·          John Doerr: The entrepreneurs want it that way. Ten years ago, as soon as a venture was funded by a reputable venture capitalist, within six months, two or three clone ventures would be launched like heat-seeking missiles right up their tailpipe. People got wise to that. Why should we say anything about what we’re doing until we have happy customers, and we’re ready to try to expand and grow our market? You see many more entrepreneurs wanting to remain in stealth mode for a long, long time. The smart ones, anyway.

·          Ray Lane: It’s worse than that. By talking too early, they produce weak competitors. The worst thing you can have is weak competitors. A strong competitor is actually good for you in an early market, because it helps build the market. A weak competitor, it turns off a client. The client says, “I don’t get it,” because they’re not able to put it across. It’s not good for that original idea.

·          Q: Wouldn’t announcing to the world draw good employees?

·          Doerr: They can do that while being in stealth. People like joining stealth projects.

·          Brook Byers: Most companies come out of stealth with around 100 employees. And for the first 100, companies know who they want. That’s pretty targeted.

Lane: They give up a little, short-term. If you can say Kleiner or Sequoia funded me, hey, that’s a statement to the world, but this rarely offsets the advantage of remaining stealth.

This interview has created a fair amount of buzz among VCs in Silicon Valley, although John Doerr could create buzz just by buying a box of Tic-Tacs and muttering something about how he likes the orange ones best. Anyway, I’ve spent much of the past 24 hours talking about, and thinking about this interview. My conclusion? The Kleiner guys are right… and they are wrong.

They are right that more VC-backed companies are staying stealth, and that they are doing so for longer periods of time. Many VC firms now are recomending that seed-stage and Series A deals get kept under wraps until the portfolio company secures some customers and hits various product milestones (often coinciding with a Series B round). This actually has been happening for quite some time, but there actually is some quantitative evidence to support the notion that it is happening with greater regularity in 2004 than it was in 2003.

A goodly portion of MoneyTree data is compiled by surveys sent in from venture capital and private equity firms. When filling out such reports, firms have the option to keep certain company information (name, management, business description, etc.) confidential. This is rarely employed, but Kirk Walden, national director of venture capital research with PricewaterhouseCoopers (which works on the MoneyTree survey), looked up some interesting numbers for me yesterday. In all of 2003, just 40 companies were marked as “confidential” when first entered into the system. Over the first three quarters of 2004, however, that number stood at 50. If you extrapolate this data to year-end – even without including an expected rise in overall Q4 disbursements – you’ll find a 32% rise in “confidential” reporting. It is impossible to attribute all of this to an increase in stealth preference (increased fear of disclosure also could be a contributing factor), but it certainly accounts for much of it.

Where the Kleiner folks are wrong, however, is in accepting the Mercury News‘ premise that this increase in stealth preference is, in part, responsible for the Q3 decrease in overall venture capital disbursements. It simply is not true, because the quarterly MoneyTree numbers include all of those “confidential” deals, including round amounts. The specifics may not be publicly available, but they are rolled into the aggregate reports. You can’t even really argue that VCs are increasingly reluctant to report stealth-mode deals, given the notable increase in reported “confidential” deals. I spoke to someone from a particularly active in seed-stage and early-stage fundings, who says that while his firm reports many of its deals as “confidential,” it continues to report the same percentage of deals as it did in 2003, 2002, etc. (the firm typically does not report anything under $1 million).

Finally, even if the previous paragraph were disputed, an increase in stealth-mode reporting reticence would not have a terribly significant impact on quarterly disbursement figures. Most stealth deals are for startup rounds. Using MoneyTree numbers, such deals only accounted for 1.64% of the Q3 total (an average of $2.85 million per deal). It gets a bit larger when you add early-stage deals (19.51% — average of $4.53 million per deal), but even a 150% increase in such transactions would not have made up for the $1.5 billion less that was raised in Q3 than in Q2.

Unrelated: Don’t forget to fill out the ACG/Thomson DealMakers Survey that we emailed to you last week. Those who respond will earn the chance to win free subscriptions and conference passes to our events. We’ll announce winners in this column once all the results are in. Go here to take this survey.


Email Dan Primack

Fidelity Ventures has closed its fourth fund with $250 million from sole limited partner Fidelity Investments, according to sources familiar with the situation. They add that the firm soon will launch a search for one more full-time investment partner. In related news. Fidelity Ventures announced that it has hired former Wavesmith Networks Inc. CEO Thomas Burkardt as a venture partner.

JDS Pharmaceuticals LLC, a New York-based acquirer, commercializer and marketer of late-stage drugs in targeted niche markets, announced that it has raised $62 million in Series A funding. The deal closed back on August 25, with AIG Healthcare Partners and Galen Partners participating. So far, JDS has acquired two compounds, including one that already had been commercialized.

Auna Group SA, Spain’s second-largest telecom company, could soon receive a buyout offer worth around Euro 11 billion ($14.24 billion), according to Dow Jones. The report says that Auna has not yet been formally approached, but that the Lazard-advised investor consortium includes Apax Partners, Blackstone Group, Carlyle Group, CVC Capital Partners and Providence Equity Partners. The selling parties likely would be major shareholders Santander Central Hispano SA (27% ownership), Endesa SA (32.6%) and Union Fenosa (19%).

MetraTech Corp., a Waltham, Mass.-based provider of Web-based billing platforms for network service providers, has raised $7.5 million in new venture capital funding. Return backers include Meritech Capital, Accel Partners and Vesbridge Partners. MetraTech has raised approximately $37 million in total VC funding since its 1998 inception, including a $23 million infusion in 2000 at a post-money valuation of approximately $130 million.

UReach Technologies Inc., a Holmdel, N.J.-based provider of enhanced communication products and services, has raised $5 million in Series B funding. Argo Global Capital led the deal, which follows the company’s August acquisition of Priority Call Management. The company has raised approximately $35 million in total VC funding since its 1998 inception.

Boston Scientific Corp. (NYSE: BSX) has made an equity investment in San Diego-based vascular stent maker REVA Medical Inc., with an exclusive option to purchase the company at a later date. No financial terms of the investment were disclosed. REVA has been backed by VC firm Domain Associates since its 1998 inception.

ActiveGrid Inc., a San Francisco-based developer of commercial open-source software, announced that it has raised $3 million in Series A funding from Hummer Winblad Venture Partners and Allegis Capital. The deal had closed back in June.

Terra Firma Capital Partners has agreed to acquire German highway service station operator Autobahn Tank & Rast Holding AG for approximately Euro 1.1 billion, according to Reuters. The selling parties would be Apax Partners, Allianz Capital Partners and Lufthansa.

Thomas H. Lee Partners and Texas Pacific Group are considering a buyout of title insurer Fidelity National Financial, according to The New York Times. If the firms opt to acquire the entire company, it likely would cost $9 billion, including $3 billion in equity from each firm, plus additional equity and debt financing from Bank of American Wachovia, Deutsche Bank and Bear Stearns. The report also suggests that the firms might instead try to acquire just one business unit of Fidelity National.

Henderson Private Capital has acquired Homann Feinkost, a Germany-based provider of chilled and convenience food products, from Gilde Investment Management. No financial terms were disclosed. Gilde had sponsored a management buyout of Homann Feinkost from Unilever in 1999.

CapMan and 3i Group have agreed to sell their ownership in Finnish flooring manufacturer Karelia Corp. to Hartwell Capital Oy AB and members of the Hartwell family. The deal still requires approval of the Estonian Competition Authority. Once completed, Hartwell-affiliated interests will hold a 64% stake in Karelia.

Trimaran Capital Partners has agreed to sponsor a recapitalization of New York area retailer Fortunoff. No financial terms were disclosed, although a report in Monday’s New York Post put the price in excess of $250 million. The deal will allow both the Fortunoff and Mayrock families to continue their leadership roles within Fortunoff.

Monsanto Co. (NYSE: MON) has formed American Seeds Inc., a new holding company that will support regional seed businesses with capital, genetics and technology investments. The company also announced that ASI has made its first deal, by acquiring Kentland, Ind.-based seed company Channel Bio Corp. for approximately $120 million in cash.

Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) has agreed to acquire MeshNetworks Inc., a Maitland, Fla.-based provider of mobile mesh networking and position location technologies. No financial terms were disclosed for the deal, which is expected to close within the next 45 days. MeshNetworks has raised over $51 million in VC funding since its 2000 inception, from investors like 3Com Ventures, Apax Partners, BancBoston Ventures, ITT Industries Inc., Redpoint Ventures, Motorola Ventures and Redwood Venture Partners.

David Dennis has been hired as a managing director with Pacific Venture Group, an Encino, Calif.-based venture capital firm focused on the healthcare industry. Dennis most recently served as CFO of troubled hospital company Tenet Healthcare Corp. (NYSE: THC). Before that, he was managing director and co-head of the healthcare investment banking group at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corp.

Simon Faure has joined PPM Ventures, the private equity arm of Prudential PLC, as associate director of private equity partnerships. He previously worked with Insight Investment, where he was responsible for fund-of-funds investments in the U.S. and in Western Europe. Before that, he was with AIG Global Investment (Europe) Ltd.

Todd Lenson has been named a partner with law firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP. He works out of New York, and focuses on corporate transactional matters, including private equity and VC financings.

    Tuesday, November 17

When Caffeine Fails Me…

When I meet Wire readers at conferences, or at other such jamborees, they ask how I come up with a new column each morning. In response, I shake my head humbly and mutter something about the intellectual additives in Dunkin Donuts iced French vanilla coffee. Today, however, my plastic-cupped elixir has failed. In order to meet my job requirement of filling space, however, I will announce that the Stock Picking Contest will be resumed this afternoon. You might remember that Part 1 (i.e. selecting the participants) occurred a few months back, but then I apparently became preoccupied. Each of those participants will receive further instructions later today, and everyone else will be kept apprised of their progress.

Actually, now that I’m thinking about relatively irrelevant things, some of you also ask why this space oc