Ex-Audax execs acquire first platform; to hire one to two associates

Two rainmakers who spent more than a dozen years as colleagues at Audax Private Equity have joined forces to close their first platform investment. And they look forward to additional firsts: their first associate hires, their first Boston office, and their first committed fund.

Four-person Propel Equity late last year closed the acquisition of Flow Services Holdings, which initially provides sewer and water pipe maintenance and repair services in the Mountain West region. The firm plans to grow the company both organically and through acquisitions.

“Aging infrastructure creates a significant need for this repair work,” Co-Founding Partner Ryan Bruehlmann said in a prepared statement. “And the advancement of trenchless repair technologies…allows for…less disruption and a lower price point for customers.”

The Launch: Bruehlmann and Co-Founding Partner Franklin Foster have been working together to find deals since shortly after Bruehlmann launched  independent sponsor firm Point A Capital last July, as reported earlier in Private Equity Career News. This week their combined firm unveiled its new name, in addition to its first investment.

The Strategy: Propel Equity plans to pursue acquisitions of companies operating in business services, industrials, consumer and medical technology and that have less than $75 million in enterprise value. The firm has four portfolio companies, including three that Foster brought into the partnership from his firm Essex Bay Capital. Propel Equity typically strives to grow its platform companies by five to six times in size, Foster said.

Hiring Plans: Propel Equity plans to hire one to two associates this year, preferably folks with a couple of years of banking or consulting under their belts. They should also be hard workers and have a “similar level of passion and high expectations around the results we can ultimately deliver,” said Bruehlmann. The firm is working to finding office space in the Boston area.

The Committed Fund: Propel Equity expects to complete another two platforms this year, which would constitute a typical pace. As for a  committed fund, “Yes, that’s very much the goal at some point in the future,” said Bruehlmann. “We want to conclude the next couple of deals first.”

The Genesis: Bruehlmann worked at Boston-based buyout firm Audax Private Equity from 2008 to 2023, leaving as managing director last summer to start his own firm. Foster worked at Audax Private Equity from 2005 to 2021 before leaving as managing director to start independent sponsor Essex Bay Capital, as we earlier reported.

The Track Record: While at Audax Private Equity Bruehlmann and Foster worked “incredibly closely together,” said Bruehlmann. Portfolio companies they teamed on included Astrodyne TDI, a Hackettstown, New Jersey maker of power conversion products, along with several add-on deals. Combined, said Bruehlmann, he and Foster have worked on more than 200 investments in the lower middle market.




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