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North Carolina Native Son Hits Ground Running for Bison Capital

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CHARLOTTE, NC — Native son Louis Bissette has returned to North Carolina, and he couldn't be happier.

"I'm enjoying it already," said Bissette, who recently launched the first East Coast office for California-based Bison Capital Asset Management. "I am excited about the opportunity."

Bissette, who is a son of Asheville attorney and former Mayor Louis Bissette, Jr., is the partner charged with taking Bison beyond its California roots. He recently opened an office in Charlotte and is already working on several potential deals.

Bison Capital provides equity investments in mid-market entrepreneurial firms, but with a twist. The company does not seek a controlling interest. It wants the entrepreneurs in charge of the firms to remain in control.

"My mandate is to build an investment presence on the East Coast," Bissette told WRAL Local Tech Wire. "We will be adding people in Charlotte."

Bison, which was launched in 2001, is in the process of raising a new $200 million fund.

"We had a tremendous amount of success and momentum with our product on the West Coast," Bissette said. "The attraction for our partners was to create a presence in the South East and East because there would be a demand for our product here."

And that has proved to be the case, Bissette said.

"We have seen quite a few," he said of potential investments. "I am really pleased with the opportunity here. We're working on three or four deals right now. I'm very pleased with the quality and the quantity."

Bison typically will invest between $10 million and $30 million in a company, Bissette added.

"We have a different model," he explained, noting that Bison was not a buyout firm "hoping to run (a firm) better than the people already there."

Instead, Bison focuses on the entrepreneurs. The firm is looking for people who are "very bullish" about their companies and are not interested in getting out. According to Bissette, Bison is looking for entrepreneurs who are "buyers" of the business, not a seller.

Bison provides equity for growth, refinancing, acquisitions and other needs.

Picking Charlotte for Bison's new office was fine with Bissette. "It was an alignment of the stars," he explained of the Bison decision and his own choice to join the firm as its fourth partner. "I was looking to move my family back to the area. It's a great entrepreneurial opportunity for me."

Bissette was a general partner at Brentwood Associates, a private equity fund, from 1993-2005. He also has worked for Morgan Stanley. Bissette joined Bison last summer. A native of Asheville, he received a degree in economics from UNC where he was a Morehead Scholar. He also serves on UNC's Board of Visitors.

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