Whitehorse rebrands to Dawson following London office launch

Dawson believes it can differentiate itself in a rapidly growing secondaries market by using scale, founder and managing partner Yann Robard tells Secondaries Investor.

Whitehorse Liquidity Partners has rebranded to Dawson Partners as the firm embarks on a global expansion.

The Toronto-based preferred equity specialist’s new name marks a significant point in founder and managing partner Yann Robard’s life: it is reflective of the halfway point in Robard’s over 1,000km bicycle ride from Whitehorse, Yukon to Fairbanks, Alaska.

Once Robard reached Dawson City, “that’s where the vision for the firm was getting clearer, where the product was really taking shape”, he told Secondaries Investor. “So, as we thought about our new name, we thought it was important to continue to stay… true to where the idea of the firm was conceived.”

Dawson has 175 employees and last year opened a London office – its first outside its Canadian headquarters – allowing it to be closer to EMEA investors, dealflow and GP relationships, Robard said. “As we’ve gone on this global journey, one of the things that we recognised was that owning the name Whitehorse Liquidity Partners across the world was proving more difficult than expected.”

Founded in 2015, the firm’s modus operandi has been to provide structured solutions that enable counterparties to accelerate liquidity on their private equity portfolios while retaining “both the upside and the flexibility”, Robard said. Across its history, Dawson has raised over $15 billion and has deployed over $20 billion across 225 transactions, he added.

“When we first started this, we knew that there was an opportunity… This opportunity has been a lot bigger than we ever expected.”

‘Growth is good’

While the firm’s name and logo are changing, “nothing else is”, Robard said.

Dawson will continue to focus on scaling successfully via measured growth, he added. “We’ve always said that big is beautiful, growth is good and scale matters.”

As the secondaries market continues to expand, the firm believes it can differentiate itself with scale “to provide new tools and the toolsets for counterparties that are looking to generate liquidity on their private equity portfolios [while] also positioning ourselves to come through for our investors. That’s really the win-win-win in everything that we’re doing”, Robard said.

Dawson’s latest flagship Fund VI launched in October with a target size of $6 billion, Secondaries Investor data shows. Its predecessor fund closed on $5.3 billion against a $5 billion target in July. The firm is also out with its second vehicle aimed at helping general partners fund their operations, according to Secondaries Investor data. The fund’s predecessor closed on $400 million in 2022, exceeding its target of $350 million, Secondaries Investor reported at the time. A spokesperson for the firm did not comment on the fundraising.

Dawson’s strategies are divided into three applications, according to documents prepared for a Minnesota State Board of Investment meeting this year. These are: LP Financing, which provides preferred equity to allow LPs to generate liquidity from their portfolios without having to sell; LP Purchase, which involves buying portfolios outright before splitting them into preferred and common equity tranches and syndicating the common equity; and GP Financing, which offers fund-level liquidity to GPs to invest in portfolio companies and injects liquidity into GP management companies.

Across the secondaries market, preferred equity and other structured offerings made up 14 percent of last year’s $48 billion of GP-led deal volume, down from 19 percent in 2022, according to Lazard’s Secondary Market Report 2023Despite the dip, the report said “secular trends are still demonstrating a demand for more structured solutions to introduce liquidity”.