PASTA LA VISTA, BABY

It's been champagne and caviar mixed with sackcloth and ashes at New York buyout firm JLL Partners, which in the course of roughly one month has seen two monster exits and one major bankruptcy.

First the bad news. Harrisburg, ([A-z]+)-based New World Pasta, the world's largest maker of dry pasta, and a JLL Partners portfolio company, last month filed for bankruptcy, declaring $450 million (&€379 million) in debts. JLL acquired the pasta maker in 1998 through a $450 million buyout from Hershey Foods.

New World blamed its woes partially on a disastrous accounting software installation, but analysts also noted the rise of the Atkins diet in the US. This diet fad preaches against the ingestion of carbohydrates, including pasta. The same diet was recently cited as among the reasons for an earnings warning at Krispy Kreme, a donut chain. Last year, New World's sales dropped 7 percent.

The bankruptcy comes just as JLL is celebrating two eye-popping exit events. In April, the firm announced its final sale of shares in pharmacy benefits manager AdvancePCS, turning an initial $150 million investment in 2000 into a $1 billion liquidity event. Advance PCS was acquired last year by publicly traded Caremark Rx.

Last month, as New World struggled through talks with creditors, JLL announced the sale of its hospital operator, Iasis Healcare, to Texas Pacific Group for $1.4 billion, allowing JLL to realise a 2.25 times return on its initial $200 million, 1999 investment, according to reports. JLL will now buy a minority stake in Iasis from its most recent fund.

JLL is a scrappy firm and experienced in the triumphs and tragedies that come with running a private equity shop. The firm began life in 1987 as Joseph Littlejohn & Levy. But in 1997, Angus Littlejohn left to form his own firm, Littlejohn & Co. The same year, several other JLL partners led by Peter Joseph defected to form Palladium Equity Partners.

The remaining co-founder, Paul Levy, has steered the firm through two successive fundraisings – the $1 billion JLL Partners Fund III, closed in 1998, and the $750 million Fund IV, closed in 2002. If investors can forgive the Atkins-induced decline of New World, this firm will no doubt live to bite another day.

GTCR ACQUIRES HONEYWELL SECURITY BUSINESS FOR $316M
GTCR Golder Rauner, the CEO-focused Chicago private equity house has agreed to acquire Honeywell Security Monitoring, the security services division of global technology and engineering conglomerate Honeywell International. The deal, led by GTCR senior principal David Donnini, is valued at $315.5 million (&€261.1 million). Tipped to run the newly independent division is Roger Fradin, president and chief executive officer of Honeywell's automation and control solutions segment. Honeywell Security Monitoring provides burglary and fire protection, access control, video surveillance, maintenance and monitoring services. Capital for the transaction comes from GTCR Fund VIII, a $1.85 billion vehicle closed in 2003. GTCR, led by senior principal Bruce Rauner, was founded in 1980 and currently manages over $6 billion of capital.

FOX PAINE NURTURES SEED COMPANY
The San Francisco private equity firm has acquired seed company Advanta BV from UK-based pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca in a joint deal with agricultural company Sygenta. Fox Paine paid &€161 million ($192 million) for its stake. Sygenta's contribution was valued at &€239 million. The deal gives Fox Paine all of Advanta's operations outside North America and all non-corn and non-soybean operations within North America.

A year ago, Fox Paine acquired 75 percent of Seminis, a Mexican fruit and vegetable seed company, in a $650 million deal. Fox Paine president Dexter Paine led both seed deals.

CONDOM MAKER MAKES NICE EXIT FOR KELSO
Church & Dwight, a New Jersey-based maker of household products, announced its intention to buy New York buyout firm Kelso's 50 percent stake in Armkel, the maker of Trojan condoms, for $254 million (&€214 million). Kelso will reap a reported $137.2 million profit on the deal, which was conceived in 2001 when the firm teamed with Church & Dwight to buy the consumer products business of Carter-Wallace for $739 million, including debt. Armkel also sells pregnancy- detection kits and hair removal products.

AL GORE IN PRIVATE TV DEAL
A group of investors led by former US vice president and presidential candidate Al Gore has announced the acquisition of a cable news network from Vivendi Universal. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but news reports placed its value at $70 million (&€58 million). The new company, to be called INdTV, will provide an “independent” 24-hour global news service aimed at young people between the ages of 18 and 34. Gore, himself a former newspaper reporter, has stated that the network will not present a “liberal” viewpoint or attempt to counter more conservative news networks like Fox News.

Los Angeles buyout firm The Yucaipa Group is a reported backer of the new company. Yucaipa is run by prominent Democratic Party supporter, grocery store billionaire Ron Burkle. Former US president Clinton is an advisor to the firm. Another reported private equity backer of the deal is San Francisco private equity firm Blum Capital Partners, whose founder, Richard Blum, is married to Democratic California Senator Diane Feinstein.

NORTH CASTLE, GOLDEN GATE RECAP HEALTHCARE GROUP
Greenwich, Connecticut-based North Castle Partners and San ([A-z]+)-based Golden Gate Capital have announced a $650 million (&€550 million) recapitalisation of Leiner Health Products. The recap involves the sale of North Castle's stake of more than 80 percent in the company, an investment the firm made from its Fund I in 1997. According to reports, North Castle will realize a return of approximately three times capital with an IRR of 17 percent for the seven-year holding period.

Also, as part of the recap, Golden Gate and a new fund managed by North Castle will co-sponsor an investment of approximately $265 million (&€224 million) in Leiner, which manufactures store-brand vitamins, nutritional supplements and over-the-counter drugs.

CSFB, MIDOCEAN BUY PUBLISHING CONCERN
CSFB Private Equity and MidOcean Partners will acquire Thompson Publishing Group. Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed. Washington DC-based Thompson Publishing produces more than 60 publications focusing on human resources, environment and healthcare. The deal was led by James Finkelstein, the chairman of CSFB Private Equity's Global Media Partners division.

BERKSHIRE ACQUIRES COSMETICS COMPANY
Boston buyout firm Berkshire Partners has acquired a stake in cosmetics company, MD Beauty, from San ([A-z]+)-based private equity firm JH Partners, for a reported value of $225 million (&€188 million). Both Berkshire and JH Partners will hold minority stake in MD Beauty, according to Ross Jones, a managing director of Berkshire Partners, which closed its most recent fund in 2001 on $1.7 billion. MD Beauty makes personal care products such as cosmetics and skin care lotions. Many of the company's products are sold through television “informercials” and shopping channels.

LA'S AURORA SEES ROARING PROFIT IN AUTO EXIT
Los Angeles mid-market buyout firm Aurora Capital has announced a successful end to its five-year in automotive assembly company, Autocam, through a $390 million (&€323 million) sale to a group comprised of GS Capital Partners and Transportation Resource Partners. Aurora acquired Autocam in 1999 through a public-to-private transaction valued at $230 million. During Aurora's stewardship of Autocam, the company's revenue grew to $323 million from $203 million. Autocam, headquartered in Kentwood, Michigan, designs “close tolerance, metal components and assemblies” for automotive applications. Adrian Jones led the deal for GS Capital, the private equity division of Goldman Sachs. Transportation Resource is a $265 million private equity fund led by Roger Penske, chief executive officer of Penske Corporation, a transportation-services holding company.

CASTLE HARLAN IN PUERTO RICAN WHOPPER DEAL
Castle Harlan, a New York buyout firm with extensive experience in restaurant investing, has agreed to purchase Caribbean Restaurants, the operator of 165 Burger King restaurants in Puerto Rico, for $340 million (&€280 million). The deal represents a significant exit event (reportedly 2.5x return on investment) for Oak Hill Capital Partners and American Securities Capital Partners, which acquired the restaurant company in 1999. David Pittaway, a senior managing director at Castle Harlan, led the deal for the firm.