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Vestar Capital Partners to Acquire Woodstream

NEW YORK – Vestar Capital Partners (“Vestar”) has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Woodstream, a leading manufacturer and marketer of branded pest and animal control as well as lawn and garden products. Terms were not disclosed. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2015.

Woodstream, through a broad portfolio of leading niche brands, services the lawn and garden, birding, pet, rodent control, hobby farm and animal control needs of consumers. Woodstream’s brands include Victor mouse and rat traps, Terro liquid ant bait, Perky-pet bird feeders, and Zareba and Fi-Shock electronic animal and hobby farming fencing, among others.

“We have strategically assembled a portfolio of leading brands to better serve our retail partners in important niche, destination categories,” said Harry Whaley, president and chief executive officer of Woodstream. “Vestar’s experience in branded consumer products and track record of supporting its portfolio companies in building companies through add-on acquisitions will be critically important to Woodstream.”

“We look forward to partnering with Harry Whaley and Woodstream’s excellent management team,” said Brian O’Connor, managing director of Vestar and co-head of the Consumer Group. “We believe Woodstream will continue to achieve strong growth by investing in its leading brands, particularly Victor and Terro, and by continuing its strategy of pursuing complementary acquisitions.”

The Senior Secured Loan Program (SSLP), jointly managed by affiliates of GE Capital and Ares Capital Corporation, provided commitments for the debt financing for the transaction. Kirkland & Ellis LLP acted as the legal advisor to Vestar in this transaction. William Blair & Company, Peter W. Klein, P.A. and Faegre Baker Daniels LLP represented Woodstream in the transaction.

About Woodstream

Woodstream, headquartered in Lititz, Pennsylvania, is a global manufacturer and marketer of a broad portfolio of branded pest control and lawn & garden products, under brands such as Victor®, Terro®, Perky-Pet®, Havahart®, Safer®, Sweeney’s® and Mosquito Magnet®, among others. The company’s products, which have leading market share positions within their respective segments, are sold at more than 100,000 retail locations and to professional pest control providers throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other international markets.

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Vestar Ups Stephens to MD

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – January 30, 2015 – Vestar Capital Partners, a leading U.S. private equity firm, today announced the promotion of John B. Stephens to managing director of the firm.

“John’s contributions to Vestar during the past decade have been substantial,” said Robert L. Rosner, co-president of Vestar and a founding partner of the firm. “He brings extraordinary energy and insights to our investment process and is well deserving of this important recognition of his contributions.”

Mr. Stephens, most recently a principal of the firm, joined Vestar in 2006. He is a member of Vestar’s Diversified Industries group and has also served in Vestar’s Consumer group. He is a director of Roland Foods and St. John Knits, and was previously on the board of Consolidated Container. Before joining Vestar, he was a member of the Leveraged Finance Group at Wachovia Securities and also worked at L.E.K. Consulting.

He holds a B.A., magna cum laude, from Middlebury College, where he was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society. Originally from Lakeland, Florida, Mr. Stephens now lives in Denver, Colorado.

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Vestar Beefs up Team with Two New Additions

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – September 29, 2014 – Vestar Capital Partners, a leading U.S. private equity firm, today announced the addition of Nikhil Bhat and Alexander Kerr to the Firm as Senior Associates.

Nikhil Bhat graduated earlier this year from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he earned his M.B.A. with distinction as an Arjay Miller Scholar. He joins Vestar as a Senior Associate in the Firm’s Diversified Industries Group. Prior to business school, Mr. Bhat worked on the Industrials team at Advent International, where he focused on private equity investments in the building products, capital equipment and distribution sectors. He began his career as a consultant at Bain & Company. Mr. Bhat received a B.S. in Economics, magna cum laude, from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 2007.

Alex Kerr also joins Vestar as a Senior Associate in the Diversified Industries Group. Prior to joining Vestar, he was an Associate at Madison Dearborn Partners, where he evaluated LBO and structured equity investment opportunities across the healthcare, consumer and industrial sectors. He has held analyst positions in the Global Markets and Investment Banking group at Merrill Lynch and in the Citigroup Capital Markets and Banking unit. He holds a B.S., cum laude, from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service (2006) and an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (2014).

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Colorado Impact Fund Launches as Engine for Entrepreneurial Growth and Positive Community Impact in Colorado

(Denver, Colo.) – July 8, 2014 – Tonight, at an event hosted by Governor Hickenlooper and co-founders Jim Kelley and Ryan Heckman at the Governor’s Mansion, the Colorado Impact Fund will officially launch as Colorado’s first privately financed fund of its kind, specifically aimed at assisting local entrepreneurs whose companies contribute to the well-being and health of Colorado communities. A private equity fund dedicated to supporting local companies that generate consistent investment returns in addition to positive community impact, the Colorado Impact Fund includes investors from some of Colorado’s most respected executives, families, foundations and corporations, each of whom is committed to making a difference in the State of Colorado and beyond.

"Colorado is now home to five of the top 20 regions for tech start-up communities," said Governor John Hickenlooper. "This is also a state where we believe our bold capitalistic aspirations can be in harmony with our obligations to our fellow man, and the Colorado Impact Fund exists to do exactly that. The Fund will make capital available to innovative companies that are committed to improving the lives of Coloradans throughout the state.”

The concept of the Colorado Impact Fund emerged from discussions among local leaders about the importance of supporting Colorado businesses that have a positive impact in our communities. This group recognized that in addition to providing quality jobs and economic development, many Colorado companies also provide solutions to some of the social and environmental challenges the State faces. These civic-minded investors expressed interest in earning competitive returns while simultaneously achieving positive community impact. The intersection of these objectives inspired the creation of the Colorado Impact Fund by Jim Kelley, Denver-based managing director and co-founder of Vestar Capital Partners, a leading private equity firm with offices in New York and Denver, and Ryan Heckman, co-founder of Excellere Partners and executive director of Quarterly Forum, a Denver-based leadership organization.

“We believe that the private sector plays an important role in the creation of healthy and thriving communities,” said Kelley. “The goal of the Colorado Impact Fund is to demonstrate that investors don’t have to trade financial returns for positive impact – you can, in fact, have both.  This will, in turn, help attract more private capital to fund businesses that improve lives in our community.”

Managed by an affiliate of Vestar Capital Partners, the Colorado Impact Fund will provide growth capital to entrepreneurs who have built compelling business models that drive meaningful returns both socially and financially. Vestar Capital Partners manages the Fund on a pro bono basis, without carried interest, with a goal of giving back to the community. This unique structure aligns the Colorado Impact Fund with the most cost-efficient capital for entrepreneurs, financial returns for investors and the growth and well-being of Colorado.

“Energy and passion are core to who we are, and we seek to partner with entrepreneurs and managers equally dedicated to these values,“ said Ryan Heckman, co-founder and senior advisor to the Colorado Impact Fund. “The foundation of our investment strategy is to leverage our collective experiences, resources and networks to help Colorado entrepreneurs be financially successful while also making a lasting, positive impact on the surrounding community.”

The Colorado Impact Fund will target initial investments of $2 million to $6 million per portfolio company in the following industry sectors and outcomes: community health, natural resource conservation, education and workforce development, and economic development. The Fund seeks to make investments throughout the state.

 About Colorado Impact Fund

The Colorado Impact Fund is a private equity fund managed by an affiliate of Vestar Capital Partners, which is dedicated to supporting local Colorado companies that generate consistent investment returns in addition to positive community outcomes. Investors in the Fund include some of Colorado’s most respected executives, families, foundations and corporations, each of whom is committed to making a difference in the State of Colorado and beyond. Targeting investments of $2 million to $6 million in the areas of community health, natural resource conservation, education and workforce development and economic development, the Colorado Impact Fund leverages its collective experiences, resources and networks to help Colorado entrepreneurs create exceptional and lasting companies. For more information visit www.coloradoimpactfund.com.

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Vestar Capital Partners Completes Sale of Wilton Re

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – July 1, 2014 – A group of investors led by Stone Point Capital, Kelso & Company, Vestar Capital Partners, and FFL today completed the previously announced sale of Wilton Re to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB). A wholly owned subsidiary of CPPIB, together with the management of Wilton Re, acquired 100 percent of the common stock of Wilton Re Holdings Limited from the investor group for US$1.8 billion. The transaction was previously announced on March 21, 2014.

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Vestar Portfolio Company Press Ganey Acquires National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators (NDNQI®)

June 10, 2014, Boston, MassachusettsPress Ganey announced the acquisition of the National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators (NDNQI®), the leading quality improvement and nurse engagement tool developed by the American Nurses Association (ANA) and managed by The University of Kansas School of Nursing. The acquisition strengthens Press Ganey’s ability to empower nurses and nursing leaders in their mission to reduce patient suffering and improve the patient experience.

“Press Ganey is privileged to carry on the quality improvement efforts designed by the ANA and looks forward to expanding the capabilities of this exceptional program,” said Pat Ryan, CEO, Press Ganey. “As we partner with providers to transform the health care system, we remain committed to the role of nursing in advancing the quality of the patient experience and achieving higher quality, more coordinated care.”

NDNQI was founded by ANA and since 2001, has been managed by The University of Kansas School of Nursing. NDNQI promotes nursing excellence through the most robust source of comparative norms in the industry and supports nurse retention through its leading RN survey tool. Used by 2,000 hospitals nationwide, it is the largest provider of unit-level performance data to hospitals. Coupled with Press Ganey’s deep benchmarking data, expansive engagement tools and advanced analytics, the addition of NDNQI will offer more targeted insights into nursing performance to improve the overall patient experience and outcomes.

“ANA has found a partner in Press Ganey that shares its mission of improving patient care through the power of nursing-sensitive data measurement, collection and comparison,” said ANA Chief Executive Officer Marla J. Weston, PhD, RN, FAAN. “This strategic alignment will enhance the power of nursing data, generate even better normative comparisons and allow for expanded linkages to outcomes.”

The NDNQI program is unique in its ability to provide unit-level reporting aligned to nursing-sensitive measures and in compliance with Magnet Recognition Program®requirements to help achieve the highest levels of performance. NDNQI tracks up to 19 nursing-sensitive quality measures, providing actionable insights based on structure, process and outcome data. Health care organizations can use the information to establish organizational goals for improvement, down to the unit level.
“At a time when the health care industry is moving from volume-based care to value-based care, the ability to understand nursing quality indicators and retain valued nursing staff has never been more critical,” said Christy Dempsey, CNO, Press Ganey. “We are pleased to announce the acquisition of NDNQI, as it is the gold standard for nursing quality data and a proven solution that addresses the vital role of nursing in coordinated models of care.”

NDNQI®is the only national nursing quality measurement program that enables hospitals to compare measures of their nursing quality against national, regional and state norms for hospitals of the same type down to the unit level. Used by 2,000 hospitals nationwide, it is the largest provider of unit-level performance data to hospitals. NDNQI is a program of the American Nurses Association (ANA) and is administered on behalf of ANA by The University of Kansas School of Nursing. Visit the NDNQI website to learn more about the database and how it’s helping hospitals across the U.S. and around the world to track and improve on nursing-sensitive quality measures. For more information, visit, www.ndnqi.org.

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Vestar Capital Partners and Goldman Sachs Complete Acquisition of Hearthside Food Solutions

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – June 3, 2014 – Goldman Sachs and Vestar Capital Partners announced today that they have completed their acquisition of Hearthside Food Solutions, the largest independent bakery and contract food manufacturer in North America. The transaction was previously announced on March 19, 2014; terms were not disclosed. Goldman Sachs and Vestar will own equal stakes in the company going forward.

Affiliates of Barclays Capital and Goldman Sachs provided commitments for the debt financing for the transaction. Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP acted as the legal advisor to Goldman Sachs and Vestar in this transaction.

About Hearthside Food Solutions

Hearthside Food Solutions, headquartered in Downers Grove, Illinois, is the nation’s largest independent bakery and a full-service contract manufacturer of high quality, grain-based food and snack products for many of the world’s leading premier brands. Hearthside offers a diverse product portfolio focused on four main platform categories – bars, cookies/crackers, granola/cereals, and snacks. Hearthside operates 20 food-manufacturing facilities in eight states. For more information on Hearthside Food Solutions, visit www.hearthsidefoods.com.

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Vestar Capital Partners Completes Acquisition of Institutional Shareholder Services

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – April 30, 2014 – Vestar Capital Partners (“Vestar”) announced today that it has completed its acquisition of Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (“ISS”) from MSCI Inc. (NYSE: MSCI). The acquisition was previously announced on March 18, 2014. The current ISS management team will remain in place and will be meaningful shareholders alongside Vestar in the company going forward.

Institutional Shareholder Services is a leading provider of corporate governance solutions to the global financial community. ISS currently has more than 700 employees operating across 15 global offices in 10 countries.  Its 1,700 clients include institutional investors, who rely on ISS’ objective and unbiased proxy research and data to vote their portfolio holdings, as well as corporations focused on governance risk mitigation as a shareholder-value enhancing measure.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP served as legal advisor to Vestar Capital Partners. Morgan Stanley acted as financial advisor and Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP acted as legal advisor to MSCI on the transaction.

About ISS

ISS, founded in 1985 as Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., is the world’s leading provider of proxy advisory and corporate governance solutions to financial market participants. ISS’ services include objective proxy research and analysis, end-to-end proxy voting and distribution solutions, turnkey securities class-action claims management, and reliable governance data and modeling tools. Clients rely on ISS’ expertise to help them make informed corporate governance decisions. For more information, please visit www.issgovernance.com.

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Press Ganey Acquires Dynamic Clinical Systems

April 28, 2014, Boston, MassachusettsPress Ganey, the leading patient experience improvement firm, today announced the acquisition of Dynamic Clinical Systems (DCS), a patient-reported outcomes (PRO) services and solutions provider. The acquisition expands Press Ganey’s Patient Voice™ portfolio for health care organizations with the ability to collect, measure and analyze patient-reported data.

“Press Ganey has long respected the progressive efforts of DCS to capture the patients’ perspectives as they engage in their care. As we considered expanding our solutions to include patient-reported outcomes, it was clear that DCS offered the most comprehensive approach to measure and interpret patient-reported data,” said Patrick T. Ryan, CEO, Press Ganey. “As Press Ganey strives to help organizations improve the patient experience across the continuum of care, we believe DCS’s capabilities offer another critical dimension to help understand, segment and manage the patient population.”

Founded on the groundbreaking work of researchers from Dartmouth Medical School and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, DCS helps health care organizations measure and analyze patient-reported health history and outcomes, and provides insights into the process of care. Through real-time data, physicians and care teams can respond to patient feedback before, during and after treatment to improve engagement and outcomes. By combining patient-reported outcomes with Press Ganey’s suite of patient and employee products and services, clients will be able to garner deeper patient insights to drive segmentation and further focus their improvement efforts.

“We are proud to be joining forces with Press Ganey’s patient-centered platform. They have an exceptional history of advancing the patient’s voice, and we are excited to become a part of that mission,” said Chris Weiss, President, Dynamic Clinical Systems. “Whether measured by respect in the industry, breadth and depth of offerings, or impact on patients and caregivers, Press Ganey is a market leader. The DCS team and I are looking forward to contributing to the innovative solutions Press Ganey is delivering for health care organizations.”

About Dynamic Clinical Systems

Hanover, N.H.-based Dynamic Clinical Systems (DCS) is the health care industry’s most comprehensive and technically advanced provider of patient-reported outcomes services and solutions. DCS offers an integrated, highly secure, Web-based patient-clinician survey system that makes self-reported patient survey data and evidence-based protocols accessible at the point of need. DCS empowers clinicians, patients and other health care stakeholders to share in patient care decision-making, improve outcomes in a cost-effective manner, and enhance research and quality initiatives. For additional information, visit www.dynamicclinical.com.

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Building a New Era at St. John Knits

NEW YORK — When Michelle Obama wore a chic, black St. John jumpsuit on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” late last month, she garnered positive reviews for the look. To executives at the Irvine, Calif.-based firm, that moment also signaled a message loud and clear: St. John Knits’ future under new management is off to a good start.

Since Bernd Beetz invested in St. John last year, became its chairman and poached Geoffroy van Raemdonck from Louis Vuitton to be chief executive officer, the American fashion house has been going through change in order to reach its global potential, not least of which was an investment by Chinese conglomerate Fosun International. Since taking up their posts, the two executives have closely studied the house’s history and business structure to understand the foundation and develop a blueprint for its future. They have now come up with a multifaceted vision that includes the hiring of a creative director; increased innovation in knitwear, which is the brand’s core category; a larger assortment of special occasion and casual luxelifestyle clothes, and international expansion, particularly throughout Asia. 

“Geoffroy and myself have a very similar philosophy on how to approach a brand, so we looked at the organization and the heritage,” said Beetz, who was one of the beauty industry’s top executives and played an instrumental role in transforming Coty Inc. during his tenure as ceo. “That has been the platform for all the things we have been doing up until now.”

The vision is strongly rooted in founder Marie Gray’s story, though that is being updated to suit more modern sensibilities. The aim — as in any brand reinvention — is to cultivate new customers without alienating the loyal existing base.

“We want to be the accomplice to accomplishment for women around the world,” van Raemdonck said during an exclusiveinterview with the duo at St. John’s showrooms on Fifth Avenue here. “This really goes back to how Marie Gray started, knitting a shift dress for herself in 1962. Her desire was to outfit women of success. She believed strongly, and we believe strongly, that living well is wearing well, and that women have a desire to wear clothes to accompany them in life.

“Our approach is one that doesn’t look at the age of the customer,” he added. “It’s an attitude and outlook on life.”

To realize this, St. John has started the search for a creative director, who is expected to oversee all design elements and work with senior vice president of design Greg Myler. The new hire will “translate our vision on every touch point, from the product to the imagery to the windows and the store concepts,” van Raemdonck said. “The notion of ‘of-the-moment’ is really important. This woman lives in this world, and in a sense, we rise above fashion. Fashion is a key element and we want to be of the right moment and speak to the trends of the moment, but most importantly, we want to deliver clothes that work for the woman.”

The modern sensibility will extend to all brand areas. “We are developing a new approach to our look book and our photo shoots that is much more inviting,” van Raemdonck said. “They will tell a story that helps the customer project themselves into our lifestyle. We are investing in windows. There are a lot of things we are doing right now to signify change, but the big change will come when we present a collection that we are responsible for. That starts a year from now as we design a year out.”

Knits will play a key role, but innovation will become an important factor. St. John has its own domestic workshops and manufacturingfacilities, which it can use to develop new knits. “That’s something that has not been reached in the past, and we want to put much more focus on it,” Beetz noted.

While the brand’s core continues to be daywear, about one-third of the business is in evening, or, as van Raemdonck noted, “going from a restaurant to a formal gala or mother-of-bride.” The company is looking to build on this category, as well as more casual work and weekend clothes.

The duo see potential both in North America and worldwide. Fosun is expected to hasten further expansion in China and beyond (in fact, Beetz’s opportunity to invest and take a leadership role in St. John came to him via Fosun and his friendship with Patrick Zhong, its senior managing director). Vestar Capital Partners continues to be the majority investor. 

Beetz and van Raemdonck declined to disclose St John’s volume — estimated to be about $400 million a few years ago — but said that 80 percent of the company’s business is still in the U.S., though that ratio is likely to shift in the future. 

“Greater China will be a prime focus internationally,” van Raemdonck said. “We have been there since 1992. We have 21 locations; 18 are individual boutiques, and we want to grow in that market. We are reopening a store in Hong Kong next month and are signing a couple of leases there in the most attractive malls.”

He called the region’s potential “really critical” to St. John’s future growth, with further opportunity to amplify the brand presence in Japan and Korea. 

Equally key are the Middle East, where St. John already has two units in Dubai, and Europe, where it has had a strong presence and sell-throughs at Harrods since 2008, as well as KaDeWe in Berlin and Tsum in Moscow, for example.

“It’s a great U.S. brand that we can really internationalize,” Beetz said. “We have a vision and a target. We have a clear understanding of what the basis has been. I think we have the way to contemporize that, and capture the zeitgeist of where we are today.”

Van Raemdonck added, “Once you establish that, then accessories, sunglasses, handbags andfragrance become also very relevant. We want the woman to enter our lifestyle and we are there to outfit her for success, and that’s encompassing of everything.”

On the more immediate horizon is the reopening of the Vancouver boutique at the Hotel Vancouver on Wednesday, followed by another reopening at the Landmark mall in Honk Kong on March 31. In November, the company plans to unveil a new store concept in its location at the Americana Manhasset on New York’s Long Island. The look is still in development.

Since the two executives joined, Gray, who is on the company board, has been a key source of information. “She is a great inspiration,” van Raemdonck said. “She is a great voice of the spirit of the brand, and makes herself available at any time. We have both spent a lot of time with her to get the gist of what she has created, and understand the love and the passion that she has had for her customer.”

That essence won’t be changing. “The spirit is the same,” Beetz said. “She is very helpful, but also very supportive of what we’re doing. To succeed in life and to succeed in your career — that’s something she wanted to address, and that’s something we really want to reactivate.”