Biggest achievement: Getting his first acquisition deal done after embarking on his own in 2008, despite not having an investment fund to start with.
Current goal: To grow his new portfolio company, Plymouth-based PowerTeam Services LLC, to between $300 million and $400 million in revenue in the next two or three years.
Jeff Wigginton, who has an MBA from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago and is a former principal at the Birmingham private equity firm of Strength Capital Partners LLC, had the entrepreneurial bug.
And a vision. He wanted to own his own private equity firm and do his own deals. The problem was, he didn’t have a fund raised when he founded his firm at the beginning of 2008. And, though he wouldn’t know it for a few months, the economy was about to take a nosedive that would make fundraising impossible.
What to do as the recession hit? Plow ahead. He looked for an industry to invest in and a company in that industry that would take on a partner with cash. He found those two and then had to find someone with the cash to make the deal happen.
In September 2010, True North Equity LLC announced that it had closed on its first deal, for a controlling interest in KS Energy Services LLC of New Berlin, Wis., a company that provides line repair for utility companies and such outsourced services as meter replacement.
The deal was for between $50 million and $75 million, the same range as KS’ revenue.
The partner providing the money was Chicago-based CIVC Partners LP, a 40-year-old private equity company with more than $1.3 billion under management, which invests in service industries. Wigginton cold-called CIVC partner Chris Perry after researching possible partners for the deal.
“He said, ‘Hey, we have this investment we’ve found and we need a partner with capital,’ ” said Perry, who said such unsolicited offers are not uncommon in the private equity business. “They’re fund-less sponsors, bright guys with good ideas who haven’t been able to raise a fund because they don’t have a track record.”
Perry met with Wigginton about the company he had found in Wisconsin. Perry agreed KS was ripe for growth and the deal was done.
That deal was followed by a second deal that closed in July, for Georgia-based Southeast Connections LLC, which maintains and repairs natural gas distribution lines. And that deal was followed by the formation of a platform company in Plymouth, PowerTeam Services LLC, into which the first two acquisitions were rolled. In addition, PowerTeam will be the parent company for future acquisitions.
KS and Southeast Connections each have about 400 employees, and combined revenue this year could hit $130 million.
CIVC has committed to fund future acquisitions.
“We’re trying to break into the Detroit market,” said Wigginton, who is the COO for PowerTeam. “We’re talking with several local companies about joining the PowerTeam group.”
“Jeff works very well with people — with us and with prospective management teams. He’s smart, articulate and has a good understanding of both the macro and the micro,” said Perry.
“Ninety percent of our business is figuring out how to work with someone, to check your ego at the door to get from point A to point B. And Jeff is great at that,” he said.