D.C. firm recruits J.C. Watts

Former Oklahoma congressman and college football star J.C. Watts has joined Farragut Capital Partners, a Washington-based investment firm, as a senior adviser and partner.

Watts starred as a quarterback at the University of Oklahoma and then with the Canadian Football League before serving in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He was a prominent Republican voice in the Congress.

“He’s going to be part of the team,” said Philip A. McNeill, 51, one of Farragut Capital’s three founding partners and co-head of mezzanine investing at District-based Allied Capital from 1998 to 2002. Allied has since been purchased by New York-based Ares Capital.

The other partners in Farragut Partners are Javier E. Aguirre and G. Cabell Williams III. Aguirre, 33, is a Washington native who worked at Darby Overseas Investments, a private equity firm founded by former Treasury secretary Nicholas F. Brady. Williams, 57, is another Allied veteran who co-headed that firm’s mezzanine practice with McNeill.

“J.C. brings a wealth of experience in the public and private sector as we look at companies in those spaces,” said McNeill. “He has expertise in energy, media and transportation, as well as a strong network of contacts that will benefit the firm and its portfolio companies.”

Farragut earlier this year launched fundraising on the team’s third fund, Farragut Mezzanine Partners III, which is seeking to raise $150 million.

The firm is about a third of the way to its goal.

Mezzanine III intends to be structured as a small-business investment company and licensed by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The firm would invest and make loans to companies with less than $150 million in revenue.

The Buzz hears . . .

• The Washington Kastles of World Team Tennis had lots of celebrities for its two dates at its new stadium on the Southwest waterfront last week. The audience for the Tuesday’s opener included former AOL mogul Steve Case, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, ABC News political correspondent Jonathan Karl, Geico advertising executive Bill Brower and NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

Thursday’s crowd included First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia courtside, Washington Nationals owner Ted Lerner, developer Monty Hoffman of PN Hoffman, Frank Cooper of PepsiCo and local media relations expert Morris Reid of BGR.

• Famous Amos cookie man Wally Amos stayed at the Ritz-Carlton at 22nd and M streets this month, where he celebrated his 75th birthday. Amos is a longtime friend of the upscale hotel chain, often staying in its hotels around the world. Amos read to kids at a local library and gave a motivational speech to Ritz employees.

Great Play gym opens in Fredericksburg next month. Great Play offers motor skill, sports skill and physical education classes for children ages 6 months through fifth grade. The local franchise, one of 10 open or in development around the United States, is owned by James and Jacqueline Shugart. Great Play is headquartered in Stamford, Conn. This is the first franchise in the Washington area.

Steel town expansion

Bethesda-based Certifikid — a year-old daily deal Web site geared to families in the Washington-Baltimore region — is expanding to Pittsburgh and Delaware later this summer.

Certifikid founder Jamie Ratner reports that her company had its best month ever in May, grossing more than $150,000.

  Certifikid’s expansion will start with medium markets in the mid-Atlantic region.

 The company’s most popular recent family deals include half-priced Washington Nationals baseball tickets, waterpark packages and family getaways.

As I was saying . . .

Shelve this anecdote under the heading “technology doesn’t always cooperate.”

Chris Hodges, 46, a partner in Accenture’s Reston office, was at the Gaylord Hotel at National Harbor last week promoting his business self-help book, “Placing Stones — Doing and Having What Matters Most.”

It was his first public talk to publicize his book, and it came before 350 professionals who run health and safety companies throughout the mid-Atlantic.

“I got going and was feeling pretty good when the fire alarm went off and we had to clear the building. As I stood in the parking lot with the attendees all I could think of in their minds was, ‘Last speaker. Good excuse to leave early.’ ”

Once the group was allowed back in the building, “I started back up again . . . but the sound system failed. I decided to test my best theater voice and began to project to the back row. It seemed to be working when the microphone came back on . . . and then off . . . and then on.”

But it ended on a happy note: lots of applause and a long line of book buyers.

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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