2012 Financial Services Company of the Year: Capri Capital

Building Capri Capital Brick By Brick

Bridge leading to Macy's in mall

For his second act, Capri Capital Partners invested some $529 million into 39 multifamily properties that were collectively sold for more than $1 billion between 2004 and 2011. Now Primo looks to expand his firm’s investments overseas, seeking out the sweet spots in Africa, the Middle East, and India. For embracing the fluidity and improvisation that embraces both its CEO’s jazz roots and embodies the spirit of entrepreneurialism, Black Enterprise names Capri Capital Partners its 2012 Financial Services Company of the Year.

Son of a Preacher Man
Primo attributes his father, the first African  American bishop elected in the dioceses of Chicago and Delaware, as the inspiration to become an entrepreneur. “As a priest and pastor, my father was responsible for the operations of the church and the financial condition of the church,” Primo recalls. “He was literally president and CEO of a congregation without a safety net. So, I saw that, I grew up with that.” That upbringing also instilled a sense of philanthropic responsibility, and he continues to be active in many charities such as the Primo Center for Women and Children, the Capri Foundation, and the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness.

The 57-year-old CEO went on to attend Indiana University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and graduated with honors in 1977. After receiving his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, he went to work full time at Citicorp where he was promoted several times until he eventually headed up its Midwest real estate investment banking operations as vice president and manager of the Chicago lending team. During that time, he reconnected with his high school friend, Daryl J. Carter (the name Capri is an amalgamation of Carter and Primo), and together they formed the company in 1992.

It was a good pairing. Primo had the real estate know-how and Carter had experience originating construction loans for Continental Bank before heading the Western commercial real estate division of Westinghouse Credit Corp. The duo gained $100,000 in capital from Chesterton International, a London-based real estate company, and later gained $65 million from the state of Connecticut’s pension fund to manage, which they placed mostly in real estate investment properties. Confident in their ability to thrive, Primo and Carter bought out Chesterton’s stake in their business in 1997 for approximately $4 million.

The $7 Billion Men
By 1998, the duo went acquisitive again and through the backing of two pension fund clients bought Washington Capital, a Fannie Mae mortgage lender, originator, and servicer, for approximately $40 million in 1998. It was a case of the minnow swallowing the whale as Capri had $500 million in assets under management compared with Washington Capital’s $2.7 billion commercial real estate loan portfolio. “It was a business that many private organizations and large organizations kind of turned their noses up at–a government lending business,” says Primo. “It wasn’t as sexy as lending against office buildings and hotels and retail properties.” Sexy or not, the acquisition provided Capri with the size and scale needed to finance additional multimillion-dollar real estate projects. The portfolio grew to reach the $7 billion range.

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