The launch of AVAIO Capital earlier this month makes the investment manager the new firm on the block, but its start in infrastructure has been three years coming.
Mark McComiskey joined engineering giant AECOM in 2016 to establish a financing arm dedicated to infrastructure, but he and his colleague, Anthony Gordon, along with a yet-to-be-announced third senior partner, have now spun out AVAIO as an independent manager. The entire team to date consists of former AECOM employees, McComiskey said. So far, that’s only a handful.
In an interview with Infrastructure Investor, McComiskey indicated the split was friendly. He said AECOM announced a business strategy within the last several months that included the decision not to keep an infrastructure finance team in-house. AECOM did not respond to a request for comment.
“We’re under no obligation to feed work to AECOM,” McComiskey explained. “We can work with anybody that we want to and will choose the best, most qualified, most competitive service providers in everything we do.”
He added, however, that the two sides will keep a close working relationship. AECOM has agreed to source deals to AVAIO that need investment, and the engineering company will provide technical support on projects.
“We think this is a real differentiator given our strategy,” McComiskey said, adding that AVAIO will target mid-market infrastructure assets, which typically cost hundreds of millions of dollars. “From the perspective of a sourcing engine, the ability to help an investment firm find interesting projects, you couldn’t ask for a better platform.”
The firm will invest in what McComiskey described as an “attractive niche” in mid-market infrastructure, the construction of new projects and redeveloping existing ones. Investments will focus on water, transportation, digital infrastructure and low-carbon energy assets in North America, but some opportunities in Western Europe will be considered.
McComiskey said AVAIO will continue to manage an investment in a liquefied natural gas plant on the western coast of Mexico that was made while part of AECOM. He declined to say whether the firm is planning to raise an infrastructure fund, citing regulatory restrictions. He did note that a key function of AVAIO will be to invest third-party capital.
Before joining AECOM, McComiskey helped launch Vanwall Capital, a firm that invests in the energy sector. For his part, Gordon has worked in senior management positions at Goldman Sachs, hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital Management and Gordon Energy Partners.
As for the firm’s name, it’s one thing that’s remained the same. McComiskey said AVAIO stands for AECOM Value-Added Infrastructure Opportunities. After building “brand equity” under AVAIO over the last three years, he said the firm decided to keep it.