First Round: When duty calls

As a devout worshipper at the altar of Greek yoghurt, First Round couldn’t help but feel bad for US manufacturer Chobani when it took a battering in 2013. The company was suffering at the hands of intensifying competition from the likes of Yoplait and Danone, an increase in milk prices in the US and, of course, the highly detrimental recall of mouldy yoghurt in September.

Bad for Chobani, but a perfect opportunity for private equity heavyweights TPG to pull off a spectacular knight-in-shining-armour routine.

In fact, TPG senior partner Kevin Burns was so dedicated to the rescue of the yoghurt maker that when founder Hamdi Ulukaya called him to talk strategy last spring, he didn’t even let the fact that he was ensconced in Easter Mass hold him back.

Perhaps inspired by all that talk of resurrection from the pulpit, Burns answered the call then and there and performed a (private equity) miracle of his own. (Working on the assumption that we all consider $750 million second lien loans a miracle, that is.)

Afterwards Burns and TPG went out of their way to make sure investors were aware of just how dedicated to the job in hand he was. In a 44-page PowerPoint presentation delivered at a LP summit in October, one of the slides mentioned this very call – and just in case investors didn’t pick up on the fact that Burns took a call while in church, TPG helpfully illustrated the slide with church attendees seated in pews and a Blackberry that had “INCOMING CALL Hamdi Ulukaya” emblazoned across the screen.

It is unclear whether TPG’s investors were impressed, but maybe the more pious amongst them didn’t think taking business calls in church is entirely appropriate. But with the firm’s latest credit fund TPG Opportunities Partners III oversubscribed, who are we to argue with their investor relations methods.