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Exclusive: Layoffs and strategic shifts at Huntsman Gay

April 27, 2012: 10:00 AM ET

Big changes for private equity firm, in the wake of their leader's departure.

FORTUNE -- Earlier this month, we reported that Bob Gay was stepping down as CEO and managing partner of Huntsman Gay Global Capital, in order to go work full-time at his church. At the time, sources said that the move was not expected to have broader implications on firm strategy or fundraising. That has changed.

Huntsman Gay has informed limited partners that it will not begin trying to raise its second fund later this year, as had been expected. Moreover, it is making several organizational changes that include layoffs of top administrative staffers like Donald Miller (head of portfolio management), Judy Frodigh (chief administrative officer) and Ben Thorndike (head of investor relations, who apparently was not at the annual LP meeting). Frodigh and Thorndike were among several back-office employees based in the firm's Foxborough, Mass. office, which will be shuttered. One investor relations pro will remain.

Huntsman Gay had not formally begun raising its second fund, but the firm's $1.1 billion debut vehicle was more than 66% drawn through last September (according to CalPERS) and has completed several deals since then. In other words, it's running out of dry power. It also will soon run low on recurring fee income, which contributed to the cutbacks.

The firm told limited partners that the plan was to hunker down with its 20+ existing portfolio companies, build a strong story via exits and then (hopefully) return to market in another year or two. LPs reacted positively – why wouldn't they? – and apparently are not concerned that general partners will walk, given that the GP commit was unusually large (approximately 10%). There may be some worry about younger deal professionals, however, given that such folks need to do new business in order to enhance their personal reputations.

Basically, it sounds like Bob Gay leaving was a bigger deal than the firm may have originally realized – at least in terms of limited partner trust. Huntsman Gay clearly has the runway to prove out its model/remaining team, and may well do so and raise a second fund in 2013 or 2014. But it's a far different plan than what was envisioned just a month or two ago.

No comment from Huntsman Gay on the moves, or from the affected executives.

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About This Author
Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Senior Editor, Fortune

Dan Primack joined Fortune.com in September 2010 to cover deals and dealmakers, from Wall Street to Sand Hill Road. Previously, Dan was an editor-at-large with Thomson Reuters, where he launched both peHUB.com and the peHUB Wire email service. In a past journalistic life, Dan ran a community paper in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He currently lives just outside of Boston.

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