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Roark raises $413m for first fund

Atlanta-based Roark Capital enters the institutional private equity world with its first fund, raising $413m in just six months.

Private equity firm Roark Capital announced its $413 million (€313 million) final closing on its first private equity fund. The fund began raising capital in October and surpassed its original target of $300 million.

Neal Aronson, managing partner with the Atlanta-based firm, said the fund would continue to invest in businesses based in the Southeast, as well as nationwide businesses working in franchises, financial services and niche marketing. 

“We really got lucky”, Aronson said of the fundraising process. Roark had been told by Lazard Freres, the firm’s placement agent, that fundraising could take as a long as 18 months.

Aronson added that, despite hearing stories to the contrary, the fundraising process was a “surprisingly positive experience.”

Roark Capital Partners Fund attracted a range of limited partners, including Princeton University, Harvard University, Hamilton Lane, Goldman Sachs, Danish pension ATP, “emerging managers” fund-of-funds Parish Capital and Commonfund Capital.

Aronson said the firm was looking for long-term private equity LPs that understand the business.

“We’re young guys and we were looking for people who would be in the business for the next 20 years”, he said. “We feel really great about our LP base.”

Aronson has been raising money at Roark on an as-needed basis since 2001, but has to date not raised a fund. The firm has invested $150 million in seven companies, including ice cream purveyor Carvel, pastry vendor Cinnabon and coffee chain Seattle’s Best Coffee.

In a 2003 interview, Aronson reportedly said he didn’t know if he wanted to take the time needed for raising a fund. He said he was able to invest up to $100 million via the families he worked with much quicker than with a fund.

The firm of Paul, Weiss Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison was legal counsel for the fund.