HarbourVest emerges as lead investor in $1.5bn DeVos family office deal – exclusive

Ottawa Avenue Private Capital, a subsidiary of RDV Corporation, is set to receive liquidity via a preferred equity and traditional secondaries transaction.

HarbourVest Partners is poised to invest into a large secondaries process involving an investment unit associated with the family office of the DeVos family.

The deal is one of the largest on the market in the pandemic downturn, which has stopped most secondaries deal activity as buyers and sellers look for more clarity on private equity valuations.

The seller, Ottawa Avenue Private Capital, had been shopping up to $1 billion of private equity stakes. The process could total up to $2 billion, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

It appears the deal is heading for the higher amount. HarbourVest is investing $1.5 billion into the deal, with $1 billion of that on a preferred equity basis, two of the sources said.

It is unot clear how far along the deal is at this point.

Evercore is understood to be working as secondaries advisor on the process.

The Ottawa Avenue portfolio is fairly concentrated in terms of number of funds, sources previously told sister publication Buyouts. Some of the large relationships in the portfolio are understood to include Vista Equity and AEA Investors.

The make-up of the portfolio was expected to make the process more attractive to buyers, even in the downturn environment. The Ottawa Avenue portfolio contained managers of high quality that were not particularly downturn-impacted, sources said.

The market also is flush with capital, with around $170 billion of dry powder, according to estimates from Greenhill. Shopping a portfolio now “will get attention”, one of the sources said, as opposed to later this year when pent-up demand from the downturn explodes into the market.

The Grand Rapids, Michigan, firm was formed in 2015. The Ottawa investment team had historically operated as a business unit within RDV Corp, which was formed in 1991, according to Ottawa Avenue’s Form ADV.

RDV reorganised its investment advisory services into Ottawa Avenue to allow the team to expand its investment mandate beyond RDV to external clients and raise funds, the document said.

Richard DeVos was co-founder of multilevel marketing giant Amway. Richard’s son, also Richard, is married to Betsy DeVos, née Prince, who in 2017 became president Donald Trump’s education secretary.

Ottawa Avenue is a wholly owned, indirect subsidiary of Wakestream Holdings, which is owned by members of the Richard and Helen DeVos family, according to the firm’s Form ADV.

In a letter to ethics officials at the Department of Education in 2017, Betsy DeVos expressed her intention to divest her interests in 102 entities to avoid conflicts of interest.

Those entities included numerous PE funds from managers including Lee Equity Partners, Vista Equity Partners, Rhône Group, Partners Group and AEA Investors, according to the letter.

HarbourVest declined to comment. RDV and Evercore did not respond to requests for comment.