Liquid year for Clayton Dubilier

The New York buyout firm has distributed more than $2.5bn to limited partners in 2004.

New York buyout veteran Clayton, Dubilier & Rice has over the past 12 months returned capital to limited partners in excess of $2.5 billion (€1.88 billion), according to the firm.

The distributions came from the firm’s $1.5 billion Fund V and $3.5 billion Fund VI, raised in 1996 and 1999, respectively.

Clayton Dubilier, led by chairman Joseph Rice and president and chief executive officer Donald Gogel, has benefited from a string of exits and leveraged recapitalisations, the later of which allowed the firm to pay itself hefty dividends. Most recently, the firm announced plans to recapitalise portfolio company VWR International, a lab supply distributor, through a $300 million issuance of senior discount notes. The firm is expecting to distribute a $220 million dividend from that transaction, or more than half its $430 million investment in the company.

VWR, based in West Chester, Pennsylvania, was acquired earlier this year in a deal valued at $1.65 billion. The company was a subsidiary of Germany’s Merck.

Clayton Dubilier has also enjoyed recent liquidity events in the sale of copy shop chain Kinko’s and cosmetics company Jafra, a secondary stock sale for publicly traded logistics company SIRVA, and the recapitalisation of consulting company Convansys.

In related news, the firm today announced a definitive agreement to buy a 73.5 percent interest in Rexel, an electrical equipment subsidiary of France’s Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, for €3.7 billion ($4.9 billion). The Rexel investment is being done in partnership with private equity firm Eurazeo and Merrill Lynch Global Private Equity.

Clayton Dubilier operating partner Roberto Quarta will become chairman of Rexel.

In September, Clayton Dubilier acquired Culligan International, a Chicago-based water treatment company, for $650 million.

Clayton Dubilier is currently in the market raising capital for the firm's seventh buyout fund.