BCP raises $1.2 billion in second fund

Baton Rouge-based private equity firm Bernhard Capital Partners has successfully closed on its second fund, raising $1.2 billion in less than a year and surpassing its $1 billion target by some 20%.

It’s the latest feather in the cap of the growing investment firm, founded in 2013 by Jim Bernhard, Jeff Jenkins and a handful of other top executives from The Shaw Group in the wake of that company’s acquisition by CB&I.

In 2016, BCP closed on its maiden fund, raising more than $750 million and making a name for itself in the high-stakes private equity world. At the time, industry observers told Business Report it was virtually unheard of for a first-time fund based on the Gulf Coast—and in Louisiana, no less—to raise as much as $750 million.

Now, BCP has raised more than three times that much—there are other funds actively raising money at the moment that Bernhard cannot discuss—and has grown to include seven portfolio companies in the energy services sector across the midstream, downstream and power verticals.

“We’re doing wonderful,” Bernhard says. “We’re in the top quartile on return for our size in the world so we’re a huge success by that measure.”

Earlier this summer, BCP took one of its companies, Kentucky-based Charah Solutions, public with an $88 million initial public offering. Bernhard hints that more will follow, though he won’t say when.

More recently, another portfolio company, Bernhard Energy Solutions, inked a deal that will be the largest energy services/savings contract in the country this year, Bernhard says, declining to disclose the client.

Meanwhile, separate from its portfolio companies, BCP is planning to invest $15 billion over the next several years acquiring and managing as many as 40 utility companies in small- and mid-sized markets. BCP currently has its eyes on the Lafayette Utility System and is trying to negotiate a long term management contract with that city’s government. If the deal goes, Lafayette would become corporate headquarters for the new company, which Bernhard hopes to grow to Fortune 500 status.

The growth of the BCP portfolio companies has brought more than 6,000 jobs to Louisiana alone in the past four years, and two of the top 10 companies on Business Report’s list of TOP 100 Private Companies in  2017—Brown and Root and Bernhard Energy Solutions—are owned by BCP.

“We would’ve had three of the top 10, but one of them (Epic Piping) didn’t participate,” Bernhard says.

With the growth of BCP, has come the need for some adjustments. BCP is planning to relocate the corporate headquarters of Bernhard Energy Solutions from Baton Rouge to New Orleans because of the need to recruit and retain more than 250 computer programmers to design the company’s energy savings systems.

“We have a lot of programing needs for the next five years and we thought New Orleans was a better location to attract for this particular skill,” he says. “It’s not that Baton Rouge is bad but we think New Orleans is better for that.”

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