Jim Bernhard launches new energy services firm

    Two years after retiring as CEO of The Shaw Group, Jim Bernhard and his partners in the private equity firm he subsequently founded have now formed an integrated energy services firm made up of several existing companies, including the mechanical construction company founded by his grandfather nearly a century ago.

    The new company is technically a holding company and is simply called Bernhard. It bills itself as a design-build energy infrastructure firm that will provide energy-engineering, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and development services for commercial and industrial clients.

    Jim Bernhard is chairman of the board of Bernhard, which comprises four separate operating companies. They include Lafayette-based Bernhard Mechanical, the Bernhard family business founded in 1919 and run by Bernhard’s brother Kenneth Bernhard; EP Breaux Electrical, a 70-year-old electrical contractor based in New Iberia; and TME, a 20-year-old engineering firm based in Little Rock, Ark. Also under the Bernhard umbrella is a newly formed company, Bernhard Energy, made up of the leadership of the other three companies. It will be a developer of district energy systems and power plants for commercial, governmental and institutional clients. Together, the combined companies have about 725 employees in 18 locations across the country.

    Rebecca Bernhard, marketing director of the Bernhard holding company and Jim Bernhard’s niece, says Jim Bernhard brought the companies together to take advantage of various market conditions, including the industrial construction boom under way along the Gulf Coast.

    “They wanted to leverage the unique services of each operating company and be able to go to market with a total facility management, development and execution firm,” she says. “With this we’re able to provide long-term cost benefits to our customers. Also, we wanted to leverage a macro trend in the energy industry toward distributed generation and combined heat and power due to increasing utility costs and the low cost of natural gas.”

    Jim Bernhard retired from The Shaw Group in early 2013, after it was acquired by CB&I for $3.04 billion. In April 2013, he formed Bernhard Capital Partners with several former top Shaw Group executives. Over the past two years, the firm has been raising money from institutional investors, though it’s not clear how much has been raised to date. Last fall, the firm filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicating it was seeking to raise $750 million for its debut fund, BCP Energy Services Fund.

    Rebecca Bernhard says BCP Energy Services Fund is supporting the development of Bernhard holding company and is a source of capital for the energy infrastructure projects the new company is developing. She could not say how much the fund has invested.

    Though Jim Bernhard and two other members of Bernhard’s board of directors—former Shaw Group executives Jeff Jenkins and Albert McAlister—are based in Baton Rouge, the new company will not be run, per se, out of corporate offices in Baton Rouge. Instead, each of the companies under the Bernhard umbrella will continue to operate individually from existing headquarters.

    While the formation of the new company was announced just today, Rebecca Bernhard says work has been going on behind the scenes for some time and that to date “the company has been successful beyond our expectations.” Bernhard plans to make major announcements about development projects in the coming weeks, she adds.

    —Stephanie Riegel

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