Chris Lewis from Riordan, Lewis, & Haden spoke to our leadership class about how he evaluates potential private equity investments.
The firm operates somewhat like Berkshire and uses little leverage. They buy private companies and over the last 20 years have averaged generous returns without leverage.
They started the firm to invest in VC-type opportunities (pre-revenue) but now have more of a buyout mentality but still earlier stage ($40M revenue companies). They buy these companies with the goal to build them to $200M revenue companies.
Chris grew up in LA and was the national tennis champion at USC. He even played on the pro tour and was something like 60th in the world. Nice! After going to business school at USC, he worked at Bank of America in money management. Chris met Mayor Riordan who had been doing VC for 10 years and that's what led to them starting RLH.
He emphasized that the most important component they look at is people. Successful businesses almost always will pivot their business, so having a long-term perspective and dedicated, flexible people is key. The top "people" qualities they look at are the following: