SLOC Exec’s Venture Capital Fund Will Focus on the West

Fresh off his successful role helping guide the 2002 Winter Games, Fraser Bullock is launching an investment company designed to stimulate established, medium-sized companies whose fortunes could affect thousands of Utahns.


Bullock has pulled together what he calls an "all-star team" to form Sorenson Capital. The name recognizes the pivotal role that Utah businessman Jim Sorenson and his family have played as the "anchor investor" in the Sandy-based private equity investment firm.

Sorenson Capital will focus on buying companies that have strong operating models and annual revenue streams of $50 million to $200 million, either as stand-alone operations or as subsidiaries of larger corporations. Through its investments, and perhaps some modifications to existing management teams, Sorenson Capital intends to "take these companies to the next level of performance," said Bullock, the Salt Lake Organizing Committee’s chief operating officer from 1999 through the end of the Games and its president after Mitt Romney departed to run for governor of Massachusetts.

"We seek to fill an important void in the marketplace through buyouts of established companies as well as providing expansion Capital to late-stage growth companies," he noted. "When you look at returns [in the] private, small to middle-market buyout space, they have historically generated very high returns for investors."

Bullock’s venture, formally revealed Saturday, drew plaudits from Gov. Mike Leavitt.

"It is an important development both substantively and symbolically. Some years ago there were no significant venture capital or private-equity funds located in Utah. This fund now joins several others, but brings a high level of prominence because of the experienced nature of the principals," said Leavitt, referring to Sorenson Capital’s management team, which has ties to the Bain Capital group that counts Bullock and Romney as alumni. Its highest profile figure is former Brigham Young University and San Francisco ’49er quarterback Steve Young.

"The allure to them was Fraser Bullock," the governor added.
Stan Nakano, director of the federal Small Business Administration district that includes Utah, sees the firm meeting a growing need.

"A lot of companies have some great ideas, some great technologies, but they need that equity investment to get these products or technologies Capitalized," he said. "There are not many groups out there who can handle those kinds of deals. Typically, these companies are newer, emerging and cutting edge, and especially for this amount of money, banks aren’t willing to make loans until they have some history."

Sorenson Capitol’s primary target will be companies in Utah, California and Colorado, Bullock said, with secondary emphasis on Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming and Oregon. The Mountain West region is attractive because of its growth, economically and in terms of population, and a lack of competition from other buyout companies.

"But we will consider investment opportunities anywhere in the country," he added. "We have looked at 60 different business investment possibilities already and are continually seeking more."

He said the company also is still in the process of raising money to supplement the Sorenson family’s investment.

Joining Bullock as principals in the venture are:

* Ron Mika, a 13-year veteran at Bain Capital and a managing director since 1996. "His background is exactly in our target space. He understands business and structuring investments," Bullock said.

* Richard Lawson, former president of Found Inc., a company in the Bain Capital family, whose experience in investment banking "will be useful to us in putting together financing we’ll need in buyouts," Bullock said.

* Tim Layton, managing director of Alpine Consolidated, the business consolidation firm Bullock started before Romney cajoled him into helping run SLOC. "He graduated No. 1 in our [BYU] business school and is a superb operator. He can look inside a business and see what’s working, what’s not and can assist them in managing toward higher performances," Bullock said.

* Young, chairman of Found Inc. from 1999-2002 and co-founder with Lawson of a company called IRR Partners. "His networks are very broad and he can get us meetings with just about anybody," Bullock said.

* Matt Lehmann, an operations whiz whom Bullock brought into SLOC in 2001 to shore up planning for the main Olympic operations center as well as the athlete and media transportation systems.

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