Organic Industry Leaders Form Natural Products Equity Fund

DENVER - Greenmont Capital Partners, a new private equity fund established by well-known natural and organic food industry leaders, together with prominent Colorado-based investors, yesterday said it has raised more than $15 million to begin operations. Greenmont will focus on emerging companies in the fast-growing natural and organic food, as well as related products, industries.

Managing general partner David J.K. Link noted in a statement: "While there have been a number of venture capital funds interested in the broad wellness industry, Greenmont purposely set out to bring widely experienced and successful industry entrepreneurs together to provide not just capital, but also effective -- and patient -- counsel to the companies in which it invests."

Among Greenmont's general partners are Barney Feinblum, former president of Celestial Seasonings and Horizon Organic Dairy, and current president of Organic Vintners; S.M. "Hass" Hassan, co-founder of Alfalfa's Markets, Inc., now part of Wild Oats Markets, Inc., as well as the London-based Fresh & Wild retail chain, which has been acquired by Whole Foods; Bryan Meehan, managing director and co-founder of Fresh & Wild; Paul Repetto, co-founder of Horizon Organic Dairy and former president of Westbrae Natural Foods; and Mark Retzloff, co-founder of Horizon Organic Dairy and Alfalfa's, president of Aurora Organic Dairy, and member of Wild Oats board of directors. Link told Progressive Grocer that other partners include John Shields, former chairman of Wild Oats; Stan Amy, former owner of Nature's Fresh Northwest in Portland, Ore., which has also been sold to Wild Oats; and Richard Youngman, former president of United Natural Foods, Inc., the nation's largest and only publicly traded distributor of natural and organic foods.

Link has a strong private equity investment background, having worked extensively with Greenmont's largest investor, Denver-based Quest International Management. Baydush Simon Weaver, a Boulder, Colo.-based wealth management firm, also represents a significant investment in the fund.

Greenmont's intent is to be of particular value to companies with current sales of $2 million or more, a powerful vision for the future, and a commitment to the industry's traditional core values. Individual company investments ranging from $0.5 million to $2.5 million are envisioned across the full spectrum of companies: manufacturers, marketers, distributors, and retailers in the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries. Link said that the fund planned to look "aggressively" for investment opportunities in the U.K. after the new year, but that "we have to be careful not to spread ourselves too thin."

Link said that although the fund would be interested in "an innovative retail concept that strikes a chord" and "wasn't just a grocery store," he added that for the most part the partners would concentrate on "product-type opportunities," since "the retail market is a little more mature."
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