December 20, 2012
Interviewed by: David Snow
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Fundraising With Bono

What’s it like to raise a private equity fund with a rock star? Kevin Albert is one of the few people who knows the answer. In 2005, the veteran fundraiser, now a partner at Pantheon Ventures, joined Elevation Partners to help the private equity firm raise its debut fund. Among the firm’s founding partners was U2 frontman Bono. In an interview with Privcap, Albert recounts what investor meetings were like with Bono in the room and describes the singer’s impressive people skills.

What’s it like to raise a private equity fund with a rock star? Kevin Albert is one of the few people who knows the answer. In 2005, the veteran fundraiser, now a partner at Pantheon Ventures, joined Elevation Partners to help the private equity firm raise its debut fund. Among the firm’s founding partners was U2 frontman Bono. In an interview with Privcap, Albert recounts what investor meetings were like with Bono in the room and describes the singer’s impressive people skills.

David Snow, Privcap: I’m really interested to hear a story about the firm you were with previously, Elevation Partners, which among its many expert GPs was a musician named Bono. I’m wondering, what was it like to be in an otherwise fairly formal fundraising meeting with institutional investors: The PPM comes out, the flip-books come out—but there’s Bono? What were some interesting stories you could certainly share from those types of meeting?

Kevin Albert, Pantheon Ventures: Yeah, so I’d be happy to do that. First of all, let me just say that it was the only thing I’ve done in my career that my children thought was cool; you know, it was cool in terms of my Wall Street career. So it was kind of neat, from that standpoint.

But I guess there were two interesting aspects of it. And part of it had to do with the fact that when we were raising that fund, he was currently on tour with their band. And so we had to orchestrate everything around what they’d be doing in the evening in Denver or Portland or New York and whatever. And I guess the first difference in interesting things was to see people who were normally very businesslike and very staid or laid-back, just how excited and flexible they would become, where normally it might take you three or four weeks to schedule a meeting with them in their office. And they would be willing to come and do a joint meeting with 20 or 30 other investors.

And we did a number of those. And you won’t be surprised to hear that people would get their PPM autographed. They would come with a little memento of some concert they went to 20 years earlier, a T-shirt or something, and get that autographed.

But the more interesting aspect of it was, it was actually a fairly risky thing on the part of the Elevation Partners to do, because this is an industry that likes to keep a relatively low profile. And there was a big danger going into it that I couldn’t evaluate, because I’d never done it before, as to whether he would be a benefit or a problem in terms of having people invest. Because perhaps their boss would think they invested because they wanted to go to this meeting, or they wanted to go to an annual meeting. Or that people wouldn’t invest at all, because they were afraid there’d be a lot of publicity associated with it, particularly if it didn’t work out well.

And what was most interesting to me… And he didn’t do anything special for these meetings. Pretty much any time you meet him throughout the day, he looks like he just rolled out of bed. And that’s kind of his brand. And he’s got the sunglasses, and he doesn’t take the sunglasses off.

But whether it was one of these group meetings, or whether it was a meeting, a one-on-one meeting, at a table like this—well, first of all, he prepares, particularly for the one-on-one meetings. He would insist upon a little write-up on David Snow. Where David grew up. Whether David was married. Whether he had any interesting hobbies. As much as we knew to tell him. And he would assimilate that, and he would use that. And when you were meeting with him—I’m told you feel, if you meet Bill Clinton, you are the only person in the world. You are important to me.

But the second thing is, once he opened his mouth and started talking about the businesses he knew something about—and he was an operating partner of Elevation because there was an intention to invest in media, entertainment businesses, including the music business—so when he was talking about those businesses, where they’re sort of in his domain, he was as knowledgeable and as articulate as any businessman or any operating partner I’ve ever run across at any other private equity firm. And ultimately there were very few people that met with him that did not invest.

Snow: Well, Elevation Partners ended up raising—it was $1.9 billion, right? Which is one of the largest debut funds ever. So clearly something went right. And it clearly wasn’t the case that people stayed away because of Bono, right?

Albert: No. I like to think it was because I was managing the fundraising. But who knows?

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