This month marks the 20th anniversary of Arbor Investments (“Arbor”), a specialized middle market private equity firm based in Chicago and New York. Since day one, Arbor has focused exclusively on identifying, investing in and building private enterprises in the food, beverage and related industries. This disciplined approach and industry expertise combined with a unique, collaborative approach with owner-entrepreneurs has led to two decades of phenomenal success.
Arbor was founded in the spring of 1999 by Gregory Purcell and Joseph Campolo. In their early 30s, the two ventured out on their own after learning the ropes working together as commercial bankers and subsequently running M&A for a privately-owned food and beverage business.
“It was the late 90’s, everyone was following the dot-com internet craze and Joe and I opened a specialized private equity shop. Between us we had five children under the age of four, mortgages and a plan. Our friends thought we were crazy, but we bet every nickel we had on Arbor. We were all in,” said Arbor Co-Founder and Chairman Purcell.
Fellow Co-Founder and Arbor President Campolo commented, “As I think back to the early days of Arbor, we are extremely grateful to the people who took a chance on us. Institutions like Mass Mutual Insurance, BMO Harris, Matrix Capital Advisors and the Harrison Steans family, along with several others believed in our vision 20 years ago. We are honored that many still invest with us today.”
Over two decades and two recessions, Arbor has amassed an outstanding track record placing the firm in the top echelon of alternative asset managers. Arbor Fund I (2001 vintage, fully realized) generated a 4.1X net return on invested capital and Arbor Fund II (2006 vintage, fully realized) generated a 2.5X net return. Arbor Fund III (2012 vintage) has fully realized three investments that have collectively returned 1.7X the fund’s called capital to date, with seven investments left to harvest. Today, the firm is actively investing out of its fourth equity fund and inaugural debt fund (Arbor Fund IV and Arbor Debt Fund I, 2016 vintages), while managing a portfolio of $3 billion in aggregate revenue and over 5,500 employees.
Steven Kaplan, the Neubauer Family Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business remarked, “Among the many private equity firms in the United States, it is very unusual to see a firm achieve the consistent top-tier, top decile performance that Arbor has accomplished in three successive funds over twenty years.”
Reflecting on 20 years Purcell said, “Anniversaries are a natural time for celebration and reflection. We’ve worked hard to build a model and culture that we are proud of and have achieved this milestone through the dedication of our talented team and partnership with exceptional people. We simply wouldn’t be here without them.”
Campolo concluded, “For us, today is about giving thanks. We’ve come a long way from two guys and a fax machine. We’d like to thank our colleagues, limited partners, employees of our portfolio companies and our families for their trust the last 20 years. It’s remarkable what we’ve accomplished together.”