Leeds hits halfway mark on $1bn fund

The New York-based private equity firm also has named former US Secretary of State Colin Powell as chairman of its advisory board. The firm has continued to invest in the market downturn, buying Israel-based library automation solutions company Ex Libris last August.

Leeds Equity Partners has collected $450 million on its way to $1 billion for its fifth fund for mid-market investments in the education and training sector, according to a source close to the firm.

In addition, the firm has named former US Secretary of State Colin Powell as chairman of its advisory board.

Leeds makes control investments in US and Canada. The firm’s investor base includes the California Public Employees Retirement System, the Archdiocese of New York, Bank of America, Verizon and General Electric pensions and Northwestern Mutual.

The firm’s fourth fund closed on $430 million in 2003.

The firm was formerly called Leeds Weld, after co-managing partners Jeffrey Leeds and former Massachusetts governor William Weld. Weld left the firm in 2005 to become the Republican gubernatorial candidate.

Leeds Equity boasts a robust advisory committee with other top former government and corporate leaders. Also on board are two former US secretaries of education, Roderick Paige and Richard Riley.

Thomas McLarty III, former White House chief of staff under former US President Bill Clinton, is also a member of the advisory committee. Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani once served as chairman of the advisory board, before stepping down to run for US president.

Prior to forming the firm, Leeds was a mergers and acquisitions banker at Lazard Freres.

Last year, Leeds acquired Israel-based Ex Libris Group for an undisclosed amount from private equity firm Francisco Partners. Ex Libris provides automation solutions for academic, research and national libraries.

Powell is not a stranger to private equity. He remains a special limited partner of Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Beyers, a position he accepted in 2005.