FIRST ROUND

It could be a sign that the secondary market has finally reached a peak – in recent weeks, investors on both sides of the Atlantic have begun receiving unsolicited, brightly colored emails asking, in bold type: “Do You Have Any Positions You Want to Divest?”

The emails appear to be connected to an Ann Arbor, Michigan-headquartered brokerage called Questar Capital, which, in addition to trolling for private equity fund interests, also serves as a training ground and centre of operations for “over 400 of the industry's brightest and best independent securities professionals,” according to the firm's website.

The email in question goes on to say, “We are interested in purchasing positions in your VC fund and would like to explore buying same. Please provide me with your thoughts. We can act as quickly as 30 days, subject to diligence.”

One industry recipient of this pitch couldn't help but think of a similar online marketing tactic used by merchants of Viagra and other male potency products. If underperforming venture capital funds have, in fact, been causing bedroom underperformance, Questar may be on to something.

THE A-LIST
Thinking of moving into European middle market private equity? Make sure you stand out from the crowd right from the start. Rule number one: don't give yourself a name that starts with ‘A’.

It's an easy mistake to make. Take France, for example: among the managers offering mid-market funds in 2003 were Activa, Altium, Atria, Astorg, Avesta and Axa. In Germany, Afinum, Arcadia and Argantis all fell into the trap, as did Alethia Capital in London. And the two most high-profile entrants in the Nordic market last year? Accent and Altor Equity Partners.

This surely is a trend waiting to be bucked. ‘ZZ Capital’ anyone?

QUOTABLE
I don't know if you can repeat this kind of success, but I don't know that you need to.

— David Donnini, senior principal at Chicago's GTCR Golder Rauner, noting that his firm turned $15 million into $890 million through the growth and sale of portfolio company Polypore, to PrivateEquityOnline.com.

The word ‘prison’ tends to focus general partners. Most of them are not interested in enjoying a custodial experience.

— Steven Gilbert, chairman of Gilbert Global Equity Partners, on why US private equity firms are paying attention to new Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, which stipulates jail time for some corporate misdeeds at publicly traded companies, speaking at Private Equity International's 2004 North American COO & CFO Forum in New York in January.