A Historical Perspective on Investing With Vision
CEA’s interest in private equity stemmed from our successful managed investments, our financial services activities and from our desire to institutionalize the investment process, while at the same time, employing dedicated capital and taking advantage of proprietary deal flow.
By the late 1980’s, CEA commenced with international business. In doing, we found that many of the international media, communications, and entertainment opportunities involved either very large companies, many of which were state-controlled, or smaller entrepreneurial companies in need of a global perspective on content, technology, and business relationships.
For a small US company, it was initially extraordinarily difficult to win international mandates on a fee-for-services basis. Overcoming this obstacle required a merchant banking approach to establishing a beachhead in the international community of investment banking and corporate finance. This involved acting as advisor, sponsor and/or investor; and one good way to do this was to establish a co-managed private equity fund with Baring Brothers in Europe. In 1993, CEA established its first private equity fund in Europe combining Baring’s prestigious merchant banking reputation with CEA’s industry knowledge and global perspective.
Over a period of eight years, CEA went on to establish a family of funds with over $1.15 billion in managed assets worldwide and offices in London, Singapore, Sydney, Prague, Warsaw, Düsseldorf, New York, and Miami.
Of the original CEA funds, most have been harvested; only a few residual equity positions remain in the form of legacy funds or general partnerships. Some of today’s legacy funds began as follow-on funds and evolved into families of funds in which CEA had a general partnership (“GP”) participation.
On one hand, Seaport went on to raise additional follow-on funds, in some of which, we still have a small GP interest. On the other hand, London-based GMT Communications Partners evolved into a family of funds. These ten CEA GP-affiliated funds in which CEA’s co-GP’s included partners from North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Approximately $950 million was invested through December 31, 2011 in over 100 investments, with a blended rate of return of 16.8%.