Ex-Drexel’s Spurge Heads Firm to Back Women-Run Companies

Lorraine Spurge, a former executive at Michael Milken’s junk-bond firm Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc., will lead a venture backed by private-equity firm APCO Capital LLC to invest as much as $200 million a year in companies that are owned or run by women.

APCO, based in Salt Lake City, started APCO Capital Strategic Growth Alliance LLC to advise and invest in mid-sized companies with female leadership, according to an e-mailed statement today. The new venture will put about $30 million to $40 million into each investment and is targeting about five deals a year, Spurge said in a telephone interview.

“I felt there’s a real opportunity to put together capital with great women business leaders, and it seemed like the timing was perfect in light of all the discussion that’s out there,” said Spurge, who runs investment firm Maple Stone Capital Advisors LLC. “Sheryl Sandberg has really accelerated the discussion. I’ve spent the last year and a half doing research and I really think there’s a tremendous under-served population of women-led businesses out there.”

Sandberg, the chief operating officer at Facebook Inc., ignited a discussion on women in leadership earlier this year with her book “Lean In” (Knopf, 240 pages, $24.95), which examines why their progress in gaining key positions has stalled. Women own about 30 percent of U.S. companies, according to APCO’s statement.

Potential Returns

The new firm is in talks on two potential deals and would like to do at least six a year once the venture grows, according to Spurge. She said she’s speaking with high-net-worth investors, family offices, endowments and foundations to raise money, and the firm may offer separate accounts or start raising a dedicated fund by the end of the year.

“I’m not about accumulating assets,” she said. “I want to do it right and do it well. My investors are going to be looking for 15 to 20 percent returns and we want to make sure we do everything to achieve that level.”

The firm will invest in companies with at least $5 million in free cash flow or at least $25 million in annual sales, Spurge said.

Spurge sold bonds at Drexel from 1983 to 1989 and was the head of capital markets, overseeing high-yield syndicate trading. Drexel filed for bankruptcy protection in 1990 after Milken was indicted for securities violations as part of the biggest insider-trading scandal at the time.

Prior to starting Maple Stone Capital with her husband, Spurge was a senior managing director at Guggenheim Partners LLC, the asset manager that oversees more than $180 billion.

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