Capital Buzz: Halifax Group snaps up another contractor


Four more Dogtopia doggie daycares are opening in the area. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

The Halifax Group, the mid-market private equity firm led by Washington Nationals’ part-owner David Dupree, is on the hunt for more acquisitions in the federal purchasing landscape, following the recent completion of a deal to combine two Washington area consulting companies.

Halifax-backed XL, based in McLean, is pairing with its Springfield neighbor, Alon, only six months after Halifax invested in XL.

Halifax principal Scott Plumridge led the XL-Alon deal. XL founder Lloyd Mustin will continue to serve as chief executive.

XL helps the federal government be smarter about purchasing billions of dollars in goods and services for its various agencies. Halifax thinks there’s room to tuck in another company or two.

Dupree is chairman of the investment policy committee for the Wake Forest University Board of Trustees. Halifax Group is backed by billionaire investor David Bonderman, founder of Fort Worth-based TPG Capital, and has offices in Dallas and Raleigh, N.C., in addition to its District headquarters.

Halifax recently sold its majority interest in Pennsylvania-based auto parts supplier Service Champ — which serves quick-service lube stations across North America — to Snow Phipps Group, which is a private equity firm based in New York City. Halifax held its interests for two years, during which time Service Champ made a big acquisition. Terms were not disclosed.

Carlyle Watch:

Several teams from Carlyle Group, the local private equity giant, are heading around the globe starting this week to pitch shares in the company to large investors as part of the road show that accompanies initial public offerings. Carlyle has said it will sell shares equal to about 10 percent of the company sometime soon.

Last week sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly, said the company believes it should be valued somewhere between $7 billion and $8 billion. That means between $700 million and $800 million worth of shares will go on the market in the initial public offering. No one at Carlyle is selling any stock in the offering; the money raised will be used to pay down debt and grow the business.

Big dog

Amy Nichols, founder of Dogtopia (you can see their giant sign from the Dulles Toll Road), tells us the doggie daycare franchise is opening four new locations in this region and relocating its flagship Tysons store to a nearby location on Springhill Road. “We are going from 8,775 to 10,000 square feet, and Springhill Road is easier and faster to get to,” said Nichols, adding that the building is owned by Georgelas Group.

The Tysons Corner store grosses more than $1 million a year, Nichols said.

Georgelas is a McLean-based development company building out much of Tysons West.  Nichols said she hopes to move Dogtopia into one of their new buildings on or around Springhill Road in the next five years.

Nichols owns three of the company’s 23 locations — Tysons, Herndon and White Flint — and the rest are owned by franchisees. The company’s first multi-unit franchisee is about to start construction on a new location in Springfield that opens in June. The same owner has been running a Dogtopia in Woodbridge for three years.

Dogtopia also is opening two Richmond locations and one in Wilmington, Del., this summer.

“All of this development and growth has been a long time coming,” Nichols said.

The Buzz Hears:

Del Frisco’s Grille opened in the former Les Halles space at 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in early July. We hear this is the Dallas-based restaurant group’s casual grill concept, with more music, less-expensive food. Just what I need.

Condé Nast acquired Sterling-based ZipList, which creates technology for mobile online and mobile shopping lists and recipe searches.

Arlington-based Decision Lens, a consulting firm that helps companies and institutions make better — you guessed it — decisions, snagged a $120,000, one-year deal to help Arlington County schools figure out how to educate the additional 5,000 students that are expected to enter the system over the next few years.

Factoid of the Week:

Ben’s Chili Bowl sold 2,204 of its famous half-smokes, at $7.50 each, at its Nationals Park food stand behind the third base line on Opening Day last Thursday. The stand averaged 925 sales a game last year. The Nationals beat the Cincinnati Reds, 3-2, in 10 innings.

Thomas Heath is a local business reporter and columnist, writing about entrepreneurs and various companies big and small in the Washington Metropolitan area. Previously, he wrote about the business of sports for The Post’s sports section for most of a decade.
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