Bernhard launches Shaw Capital Partners

Bernhard launches Shaw Capital Partners

Two months after packing up the executive suite in what was then Shaw Tower, Jim Bernhard has launched a new venture—Shaw Capital Partners, a private equity firm that will invest in independent energy and infrastructure companies and assets.

Joining Bernhard are four of his former top executives from The Shaw Group: Jeff Jenkins, John Donofrio, Rusty Brown and George Bevan. Together, the partners are hoping to raise as much as $2 billion from large institutional investors, funds which will be used to acquire a majority interest in power and energy companies.

"We'll be looking at things like power plants, pipelines, E&P companies," Jenkins explains. "Some will be more mature. Some will be in the startup stage as it relates to pipelines or exploration."

The state's burgeoning industrial construction boom, which is being fueled by the abundance of cheap natural gas, puts the firm in a particularly good position, Jenkins says.

"We feel that will be a tremendous opportunity for us to take advantage of," he says.

The firm has yet to secure any major investment funds, but it has several potential deals in the works that it will use to pitch to institutional investment houses in New York when it goes on a so-called road show in the next few weeks. Some of those deals are so big they could approach the $2 billion range, Jenkins says. That's significant, not only for Baton Rouge but for the entire region.

"I don't believe there is anything from Houston through Atlanta to Miami that is more than, like, $100 million in terms of equity funds," Jenkins says. "So if you start talking about the potential of a $1 billion or $2 billion equity fund, that is pretty significant."

Bernhard first hung out the Shaw Capital Partners shingle on the 10th floor of II City Plaza downtown in early March. For the past few weeks, the firm has been getting organized and preparing to meet with institutional investors. But while it has only been open a few weeks, there has been no shortage of potential deals coming through the doors. Jenkins says those deals will be used to raise capital.

While some equity investment firms raise capital without a portfolio of firm deals, "the likelihood is we will have some things we will bring to the market as ready to invest in," Jenkins says, adding that the first of those deals will likely involve the acquisition of power assets.

Down the road, Shaw Capital Partners may acquire or invest in a company that it would bring to Baton Rouge, depending on the deal.

"The state has lots of great incentives, so if we saw something that would be a great opportunity, we would do that," Jenkins says. "We are open to anything. But that is not the focus at this point."

While the firm is limited to the five partners for now, plans call for "building a strong operational team and bringing in additional partners with significant experience in the private equity sector from New York or London," Jenkins says.

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