Before forming Smith Whiley, she was a managing director at Aetna Inc., where she invested in excess of $4 billion and managed a $9.2 billion portfolio.
Kneeland Youngblood. Co-Founder & Managing Partner Pharos Capital Group Dallas, TX Age: 50. Calling Youngblood a jetsetter would be putting it lightly. All within the span of a week, Youngblood has conducted business on a global scale. First, he went to Spain, to greet a former foreign ambassador to the United States. Then, France, to meet with an entrepreneur that Pharos is considering doing business with. And finally, Greece, for a Starwood Hotels board of directors meeting. In terms of frequent-flier miles, it doesn’t hurt that Youngblood is chairman of the board of the American Beacon Fund, a subsidiary of American Airlines that manages $20 billion in assets.
It was the lure of a private jet that led to Youngblood’s transition to becoming a financial power broker. At the time, “I was involved in politics. I raised campaign funds for people like Bill Bradley, Ron Brown, and Ann Richards,” he explains. Youngblood received a phone call from a CEO who was also serving on a governor-appointed commission. “He wanted us to fly down to a board meeting together,” recalls Youngblood. “When I asked for the time of the airline flight, he said, ‘No, hang with me on my corporate jet.’ I had no idea people operated like that.”
That was in 1990. Since then, Youngblood has charted the course of Pharos, with $500 million in capital under management, through three private equity funds. The firm ranks No. 2 on the BE PRIVATE EQUITY FIRMS list, focusing on growth and expansion capital primarily in healthcare, business services, and applied technology in underserved markets. Pharos likes to commit $10 million to $15 million and have on average 20 deals. Current investments include Windsor Health Group, Converge, Clearwire, and Reel FX.
“We look for entities where Pharos can add value,” says Youngblood. “We leverage our relationships with members in the corporate community.” Pharos’ investors include corporate giants such as Verizon, Nokia, Walt Disney, and John Deere. “We try to have companies invest not only in our funds but also provide strategic partnerships with our portfolio companies,” he adds.
Youngblood enjoys his job, but he is most passionate about his six children, who range in age from 10 to 26. His eldest daughter, Annina, is involved in fixed-income trading at Lehman Brothers.
— Carolyn M. Brown
J. Peter Thompson. Managing Partner Opportunity Capital Partners Fremont, CA. Age: 64. Bottom Line: Thompson is a seasoned private equity investor with a 35-year history of providing financing to minority- and women-controlled businesses. He has guided the firm’s successful positioning of its four private equity funds with capital under management of $135 million. Thompson directly manages several of the firm’s investments including Access 1 Communications Corp. and Bustos Media L.L.C. Opportunity Capital Partners, which seeks to make investments in the $3 million to $10 million range; has 20 companies in its portfolio; and invests primarily in media, communications,