Cargill’s Black River Asset Management Spins off PE Business as Proterra

Richard Gammill is the new managing partner at the natural resources-focused firm

The managers of Black River Asset Management’s private equity business have spun out as Proterra Investment Partners with $2.3 billion under management in funds that will focus on natural resources.

Proterra, based in Hopkins, Minnesota, is a standalone private equity firm with investment strategies targeting the agriculture, food, and metals and mining sectors. The company will continue to manage and launch funds under the Black River Private Equity Funds label.

The Black River spinoffs are part of Cargill’s plans to restructure to become more responsive to the commodities market swings. Black River’s liquidation of four of its hedge funds in 2015 with more than $1 billion combined under management hurt Cargill’s profits in the most recent quarter for the closely held company.

Proterra has 17 employees, with Brent Bechtle, Richard Gammill and James Sayre each owning between 25 percent and 50 percent of the firm, according to the firm’s investment adviser filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Gammill is the managing partner. All three partners are based in Minneapolis with Bechtle overseeing two agriculture PE funds and Gammill and Sayre co-heading two PE funds that invest in food production, processing and distribution businesses. Torbin Thordsen, listed as a partner, whose stake is between 5 percent and 10 percent, is based in London and manages the firm’s metals and mining PE fund.

Black River Asset Management is an independently-managed Cargill Inc. subsidiary formed in 2003, and Cargill will continue to be an investor in the Proterra funds, the first of which launched in 2010. Proterra manages $782 million in three agriculture funds, $1.2 billion in three food funds, and $165 million in the metals and mining fund.

Proterra reported that the spin out occurred on Jan. 1. In September, Cargill and Black River announced that the PE managers and the two other Black River businesses, a relative-value fixed income strategy and an emerging-market credit strategy, were planning spinoffs into independent firms. In December, Cargill announced it would sell its crop insurance business to Silveus Insurance Group of Minneapolis.


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