Funds Of Fund

Fairview Capital used a razor-sharp strategic focus and high-powered talent to build a $1.6 billion private equity enterprise

Connecticut, headquarters. The founders arranged for Fairview Capital to remain 100% black-owned despite BIMC’s substantial investment in the firm’s first $92 million fund (Bigler held a 30% ownership in the fund). When BIMC was sold to The Crossroads Group in 1996, Fairview continued to rent office space for three years. By 1999, Fairview moved into its own two-story brick office building nearby. “It was not a challenge to raise the second fund without Bigler,” says Price. “It could have been, but Bigler really shared a lot of information willingly, from their operating systems to their way of doing business to their vendors.”

Just about everyone, including Morse, will tell you that the private equity business is a relationship business. “People have to like you,” he says. At the same time, however, investors have to trust their fund managers to make serious investment decisions. That balance is what makes Morse and Price such a great match. “Larry and I have a lot of complementary qualities,” says Price, who is known for her sense of humor and people skills. “Larry is very thoughtful but he is also very serious and straightforward.”

Morse, who built his reputation on a strong academic foundation, is considered one of the best minds in private equity. He graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Howard University with a degree in economics after spending his junior year
at The London School of Economics and Political Science as a Luard Scholar. He also earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in economics from Princeton University and served as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University. “I left Howard thinking I wanted an academic career in economics,” recalls Morse, who decided to switch his career orientation to what he termed the “solution side” while in graduate school. “During the 1970s while I was at Princeton, the unemployment rate for black males between [the ages of] 18 and 24 was 60% in Harlem and Chicago. That was incredibly depressing.”

Morse viewed entrepreneurship as the answer. “I saw that wealth creation is necessary and at the core of that is to create profitable businesses,” he says. “My larger concerns brought me to this playing field, but on this playing field I’m operating a business.”

It’s this focused, pensive persona — and his 11-year career as a venture capital professional — that drew Price to Morse as a business partner. His experiences working for large venture capital outfits such as UNC Ventures, Equico Capital, and Stamford, Connecticut-based TSG Ventures, the former BE private equity firm he co-founded, gave him sterling credentials. As a part of UNC’s team, Morse was involved in financing revolutionary enterprises such as CAV Systems, which developed advanced CAD/CAM industrial design systems; Air Atlanta, the first black-owned airline; Xinix, a computer chip design firm; and Accent Hair Care Salons, a chain of upscale, mall-operated boutiques. And when SYNCOM (No. 3 on the BE PRIVATE EQUITY list with $250 million in capital under management) led additional rounds of investments in Radio One (No. 10

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