Castle Harlan president Wender resigns

Justin Wender has resigned for undisclosed reasons from the mid-market firm 'effective immediately' after 17 years.

Castle Harlan’s president Justin Wender has resigned “effective immediately” for undisclosed reasons, and the firm has appointed senior managing directors Howard Morgan and Bill Pruellage as co-presidents to take his place.

“After 17 years at Castle Harlan, I have made the difficult decision that it makes sense for me to move on,” Wender said in a statement. “I expect to assess and announce my next steps in due course.”

A spokesperson for the firm said Wender’s departure will not trigger a key-man clause. Wender’s resignation comes months after the firm closed its fifth fund, which collected $800 million, in March. Fund V launched in 2008 and missed its initial target of $1.5 billion, a market source told PEO.

The resignation is unexpected because Wender was considered to be Castle Harlan's “heir apparent”, a separate source said.

Wender became president of the firm in 2006, taking over for Leonard Harlan, who co-founded the firm with John Castle in 1987. Wender was named chief investment officer and senior managing director in 2004. He joined Castle Harlan in 1993. Castle is the chairman and chief executive officer of the firm, while Harlan works as chairman of the firm's executive committee.


Prior to Castle Harlan, Wender worked for two years in the corporate finance group of Merrill Lynch. He has sat on the boards of Castle Harlan portfolio companies Morton’s Restaurant Group, McCormick & Schmick’s, Ames True Temper and Polypipe Global Holdings, among others.

The firm has made two investments from Fund V, leaving it with $700 million to invest in mid-market companies.

In June, the firm completed a $160 million buyout of IDQ Holdings, a manufacturer of branded automotive air conditioning products. Last month, the firm sold Ames True Temper, which makes lawn and garden tools and accessories, to Griffon Corporation for $542 million. The firm bought Ames in 2004 for $380 million from Wind Point Partners.

Castle Harlan manages funds with about $2.5 billion in equity commitments.