Sphere of Influence: Bets big on companies cherished by and often run by women, including maraconi and cheese maker Annie’s Inc.
Molly Ashby started Solera Capital in 1999 after 16 years at J.P. Morgan & Co. (NYSE: JPM), where she had served as chief operating officer and chief investment strategist for J.P. Morgan Capital Corp., the bank’s private equity unit. While there, she gained recognition for organizing a $5.1 billion leveraged buyout of HCA Holdings Inc. (NYSE: HCA), the healthcare services company.
One of Ashby’s most high-profile deals was Solera’s 2002 controlling-stake investment in Annie’s Inc. (NYSE: BNNY), foreseeing huge growth potential for the company’s natural and organic food lines by expanding its sales in mainstream grocery stores. Annie’s held one of the most successful initial public offerings of 2012 and was acquired in 2014 by General Mills Inc. (NYSE: GIS). Ashby served as chair of Annie’s from 2004 until the General Mills purchase. Today, the company sells its products in more than 35,000 stores.
She received the 2015 Women of Concern Leadership Award from Concern Worldwide U.S., a humanitarian organization, in recognition of her fostering positive change in the private sector. She is an emeritus trustee of the College of William & Mary’s Endowment, and she chairs its investment and executive committees.
In addition to Annie’s, Solera’s investments have included majority stakes in Latina Media Ventures, which publishes magazines for Hispanic women in the U.S.; Yolo Colorhouse, a toxic-free paint company; Calypso St. Barth, maker of high-end women’s clothing; and Little Clinic, which operates health clinics in retail stores and was sold to The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) in 2010.