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Industry Spotlight > Mergers and Acquisitions

Thomas H. Lee Advisory Partner Buys Stake in $2B Austin RIA

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What You Need to Know

  • The RIA, Venturi Private Wealth, is headed by Merrill Lynch veteran Russ Norwood.
  • Bravura Capital is the private investment vehicle of Kent Weldon, a Morgan Stanley alum.
  • The RIA also added two executives to its senior management team.

Bravura Capital, the family office of Thomas H. Lee partner Kent Weldon, has taken a stake in Austin, Texas-based RIA Venturi Private Wealth, a wealth management firm managing more than $2.1 billion in client assets.

Venturi, which is headed by Merrill Lynch wealth management veteran Russ Norwood, plans to use the capital to help its aggressive Southwest U.S. growth plan, Venturi and Bravura said in a joint announcement Thursday.

Weldon, who worked for Morgan Stanley earlier in his career, is an advisory partner at Thomas H. Lee Partners.

As part of the investment, Bravura “will deliver strategic relationships, growth expertise and additional capital to the leadership team” of Venturi, the firms said. Weldon will also join Venturi’s board of advisors.

The RIA plans to increase client assets to $10 billion over the next several years. To achieve that, it “will look to recruit and acquire firms and advisors who not only are a strong fit with Venturi’s distinctive culture, but complement the existing team’s specialized expertise in supporting the underserved” high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth client segment, according to the company.

Venturi is also adding two senior leaders: Sylvia Bell, ex-Teacher Retirement System of Texas investment management division, joins Venturi as chief operating officer, the same position she had at her previous firm. Christopher M. Schelling, ex- Windmuehle Funds managing director, joins as director of alternative investments.

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. The companies said only that it was a “significant strategic investment” by Bravura, a firm that “takes minority stakes in founder-led businesses, emphasizing alignment of vision, collaboration and a culture of integrity and character.”

Venturi, which was founded in 2015 and also has an office in Oklahoma City, is focused on “serving the complex needs” of HNW and UHNW investors, families and business owners. It has a staff of 30 professionals with expertise in investments, planning, wealth strategy and alternative investments, the companies said.

“We formed Venturi Private Wealth after many years as successful financial advisors at Merrill Lynch [Private Banking and Investment Group],” according to Norwood, Venturi CEO.

“Our decision to exit well-established and very successful wirehouse careers was spurred by one key trend: In the years following the financial crisis, high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth individuals, families and business owners — especially first-generation wealth creators — had lost trust in large financial institutions,” he said in a statement.

Those clients became “increasingly open to working with independent firms with the expertise and resources to service their complex needs” that include “everything related to legacy planning, to building a strategy for investing in the public markets for the first time, to having a structure for due diligence and access to a wide range of alternative investments,” he added.

Regarding the transaction with Bravura, Norwood said, “Finding a collaborative strategic partner was much more important to our team than just additional growth capital. There was no shortage of private capital from all sources interested in becoming a part of our firm’s ongoing growth story.”

However, “without question, Kent distinguished himself from the outset with his vision, expertise and knowledge of our target market, combined with Bravura’s truly long-term, patient capital approach,” according to Norwood.

Venturi “stood out immediately,” Weldon said in the news release. “Venturi’s strategy of building an integrated, market-leading regional company serving clients in the Southwest is different than many other growth strategies I see in the independent space today.”

Berkshire Global Advisors served as financial advisor to Venturi for the strategic investment transaction.


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