The Johns Hopkins Private Equity and Venture Capital Club was honored to host Mr. Chris Hoehn-Saric, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Sterling Partners on Nov 12th at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. Chris has a deep connection to the Johns Hopkins University as he was an engineering major, his parents were both Professors in the Johns Hopkins Department of Psychiatry, and he is a current member of the Johns Hopkins Board of Trustees.
Chris started off the presentation with a discussion on the returns across investment classes and how investment in private equity has delivered stellar returns compared to investments in public companies or venture capital over a period of 81 years from 1926 to 2006.
Sterling Partners was started in 1983 by four young entrepreneurs who began investing in companies by raising funds on a deal-by-deal basis. The firm has come a long way since then and it is now one of the leading private equity firms that specializes in growth capital investments. Chris shared that Sterling Partners seeks companies with strong growth characteristics and an opportunity to become a market leader in their field. The firm is focused on investments in education, healthcare and business services.
Private equity and venture capital are terms that are often used interchangeably by the general public. Chris highlighted that there were fundamental differences between both investment models and shared that compared to venture capital, private equity had lower volatility and their returns are measured in terms of 2-3x returns on money.
Sterling Partners acquired Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology (Spartan), a prominent aviation-maintenance school for training pilots, aviation technicians and nondestructive testing professionals in Jan 2013. Chris shared with the audience the investment thesis for investing in the aviation training industry and how Sterling Partners planned to add value to the company through the restructuring of the business and executive teams. In addition, he discussed the growth opportunities that Spartan would be able to capture with the support of Sterling Partner’s investment and partnership.
In the final section of his presentation, Chris shared his outlook on the private equity industry and how the industry is changing rapidly as large scale private equity firms like Carlyle, KKR and Apollo are becoming multi-asset managers. He added that technology would be a key enabler and pose increasing opportunities for disruption in many industries. In the world of private equity, finding a good company with an outstanding management team that could navigate these challenges and thrive would be the most important task.
The Johns Hopkins Private Equity and Venture Capital Club is grateful for Mr. Chris Hoehn-Saric’s time and candid sharing about the challenges and opportunities facing the private equity industry as well as his sharing about the evolution of Sterling Partners and the case study sharing of Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology.