Nalco, a chemical company that the Blackstone Group LP (NYSE: BX), Apollo Group Inc. (Nasdaq: APOL) and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners bought in 2003, “is certainly one company we wish we’d invested in,” says Joseph Rice, a founder of Clayton, Dubilier & Rice LLC. Blackstone, Apollo and Goldman Sachs took Nalco public in 2004 and exited the company in 2007, according to Nalco’s website. In 2011, Nalco merged with Ecolab Inc. (NYSE: ECL).Rice spoke about Nalco in response to an audience member’s question after his keynote address at the Yale School of Management’s Private Equity Conference at the elegant Yale Club of New York City on Nov. 9. Rice, whose New York firm recently completed the $1.05 billion acquisition of David’s Bridal, Inc., kicked off the conference, now in its twelfth year. Some of the topics under discussion at the conference included: the increased sector focus of PE firms, the current fundraising client, the impact of the presidential election on dealmaking, especially in sectors, such as healthcare. After months and even years of uncertainty, the combination of the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding the Affordable Healthcare Act and President Barack Obama’s reelection bring stability, which is expected to fuel M&A in the sector after years of under-investment, said conference participants.

Mergers & Acquisitions editor-in-chief Mary Kathleen Flynn moderated a morning panel on investing in specific sectors, including financial services, healthcare, energy and transportation and logistics. Panelists included: Alexander Chulack, managing director of General Atlantic; Matthew LeBlanc, principal, ArcLight Capital Partners; Ezra Mehlman, senior associate, Health Enterprise Partners; and Noah Roy, managing director, Greenbriar Equity Group.

David Katz, managing director of Chicago’s GTCR LLC, gave a lunchtime presentation about his company’s investments in the healthcare sector.

“The cost of starting companies has gone down, but the cost of getting customers has stayed the same,” said Maria Gotsch, CEO of Partnership for New York City Fund, on a panel about early-stage venture capital investing that included Kylie Sachs, partner, Ascend Venture Group.



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