Millstone, who was born in
When he left Millstone Bangert in 2001,
The Post-Dispatch recently interviewed Millstone about his latest business ventures. Below is an edited transcript.
What's new for the Lion's Choice restaurant chain since you acquired it last year?
Lion's Choice was a great acquisition in that there were no surprises. The management team has proven that they're running an excellent company.
We're looking at how we can improve operations through additional investment by modernizing the look and feel of the stores. We're in the early stages of that. When we open new stores, we'll be looking at new store designs.
We do anticipate opening new stores, initially in the region, but we will continue to evaluate other markets.
Will your next acquisition be in the restaurant industry or something else?
We have 40 investors, where we have full discretion on investment of those funds. That means we can act very quickly. As an opportunistic fund, we're not tied to the quick service restaurant industry. We're currently looking at opportunities in financial services, health care, manufacturing and business services. It's very broad.
We're fairly unique in what we do. We can invest in anything we feel we can understand and that will be successful. What we're really looking for are companies with annual revenue of
We tend to be focused on opportunities that come to us through our relationships; a proprietary deal flow where there's a high level of trust on both sides, where we feel like there's a match with what that company needs and the experience and relationships that we can bring to the table.
There was a need in the region for someone to be doing what we're doing. To my knowledge, we're the only blind committed capital fund in the lower-middle market in the
We have a very diversified pipeline of businesses that we're looking at. There's no shortage of opportunities in terms of good companies and excellent people to invest in. I think we'll invest this fund much more quickly than anticipated because of the strength of the opportunities. If (they) continue to build as they have in this first year, we will raise a second fund.
Is commercial real estate getting back to where it was before the recession?
It depends on what segment. I think on the industrial side, the market has really finally bottomed. If you look at vacancies in industrial real estate in the
One of the challenges
Why do you attribute that slow growth to?
The fragmentation of the region is one of the most significant reasons, and I support the merger of the city of
I do think fragmentation is an issue in the region as a whole. The more we can work together as one team, and we're all rowing in the same direction, we'll be more successful.
I also believe there's a gap with assisting companies that have been in existence for a long time. If people like us don't invest in them, the companies won't be successful and they may not continue to exist. These companies employ a lot of people today, and if they're invested in the right way, and they're given the right guidance, they'll expand and really be a key component in providing growth in the region.
How did your grandfather, the late
Both my grandparents, I.E. and
My grandparents' influence was soft and indirect. They never told me what to do or how to behave or what career to pursue. But they approached everything with integrity and a concern for other people. Whatever they did, they wanted it to be excellent. Those are attributes I think are important, treating everyone with respect and with a sense of integrity.
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