Signs of Life From J.W. Childs?

J.W. Childs Associates LP, the Boston-based buyout shop that seemed doomed in 2007, has quietly crept back to life and is looking for new acquisitions.

In November, JWC Acquisition Corp., the firm’s special purpose acquisition company, raised $125 million for new deals. J.W. Childs has not done a new acquisition since 2008, although it has done several add-on acquisitions.

“It was a very quick process, it allowed us to raise capital in a matter of weeks,” Partner Jeff Teschke told Buyouts, adding that the firm would “certainly” look towards raising a traditional fund once this SPAC is deployed. The firm has 21 months to deploy the SPAC.

On Dec. 9, the firm announced that its formerly troubled portfolio company, juice company Sunny Delight Beverage Co., was selling its Western European business to Orangina Schweppes in a deal that, once closed, will allow the company to repay all of its debt, Teschke said.

J.W. Childs bought the company back in 2004 from Procter & Gamble. The company is also investing more than $70 million to upgrade its five North American manufacturing facilities and data systems, and to buy a plant in Sherman, Texas. Teschke, who conceded the investment is getting long in years, said the firm has fielded many a call from investment bankers about selling the company but has no immediate plans to do so.

In November, J.W. Childs and BAML Capital Partners agreed to sell Advantage Sales and Marketing LLC, a sales and marketing agency, to Apax Partners Worldwide.

If you remember, 2007 was a difficult year for the firm. It gave up trying to raise as much as $2.5 billion for its fourth fund. A few of its companies either defaulted on debt payments or were downgraded by the ratings agencies. And several professionals, including Teschke, left the firm. Some started their own shop, West Hill Partners, while a senior associate defected for TA Associates. In March 2009, West Hill ultimately pulled its campaign to raise a debut fund amid an extremely difficult fundraising environment. Teschke returned to J.W. Childs in November 2009.

Teschke said the firm has rebuilt its team and is re-focused on its core strategy of investing in retail and consumer companies. He also suggested the firm had erred in trying to raise such a huge fourth fund, which would have been nearly double the size of its previous fund, a $1.75 billion pool of capital.