Home / newsitem / Avista Capital Partners bolsters healthcare practice with appointments of Charles Harwood and Ron Sparks

Avista Capital Partners bolsters healthcare practice with appointments of Charles Harwood and Ron Sparks

New York, NY, October 17, 2007 – Avista Capital Partners, a leading private equity firm, today announced that it has hired Charles C. Harwood, Jr., a proven operator in the clinical diagnostics and pharmaceutical services industries, and Ron Sparks, a 30-year veteran of the medical device industry, as Healthcare Industry Advisors.

Mr. Harwood, 54, currently serves as Executive Chairman of BioReliance, an Avista portfolio company. He has over 20 years of experience in healthcare and was formerly President and Chief Executive Officer of Focus Diagnostics, a company in which the Avista team invested while at DLJ Merchant Banking Partners (“DLJMB”).

Mr. Sparks, 52, was most recently President and Chief Executive Officer of Accellent Inc., a former portfolio company of DLJMB. He joined Accellent following a 20-year career at Smith & Nephew, plc, where he served as President of the Endoscopy Division and as a member of the Group Executive Committee.

Avista has significant experience in the healthcare sector and has consistently demonstrated its ability to execute transactions quickly and professionally. The firm closed its inaugural $2.0 billion private equity fund in June 2007 and has committed $1.4 billion in investments in 17 portfolio companies broadly diversified in the healthcare, media, and energy industries.

Thompson Dean, Co-Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer of Avista, said, “Our healthcare private equity business is growing rapidly, and we believe companies in the pharmaceutical and medical-device sectors, and companies servicing these sectors, are best-positioned to continue to benefit from current trends. Charlie and Ron bring to Avista extensive operational and investment expertise, as well as strong reputations and relationships within these industries. Their many years of experience will greatly enhance both our sourcing and operational efforts.”

Mr. Harwood and Mr. Sparks will be working with Healthcare Industry Partner Larry Pickering, the former Chairman of DLJMB Global Healthcare Partners, and Partner David Burgstahler, who together head Avista’s healthcare practice.

“We are looking forward to once again partnering with Charlie and Ron as we expand our healthcare business,” said Mr. Burgstahler. “The Avista team will be working with them to target businesses with strong management teams, stable cash flows, and strong growth prospects.”

Mr. Pickering, who held key senior management positions in pharmaceuticals during his three decades at Johnson & Johnson, stated, “Charlie and Ron’s operating experience in the pharmaceutical services and medical device industries, respectively, is very complementary to Avista’s existing portfolio. We are excited to work with our new Healthcare Industry Advisors to continue to make opportunistic investments in these fields.”

“I am eager to expand the scope of my work with Avista, with whom I have enjoyed a long and successful relationship,” stated Mr. Harwood. “In addition to continuing to fulfill my responsibilities as Executive Chairman of BioReliance, I will also be focusing on reviewing opportunities in biopharmaceuticals, contract research organizations, and lab-based businesses for Avista.”

Mr. Sparks said, “After working with the Avista team at Accellent, I am thrilled to be partnering with them again. Over the last 30 years, I have built very strong relationships within the medical device space. I look forward to leveraging these associations, as well as my own operating experience, to help Avista make strategic investments in well-positioned businesses in this field.”

During Mr. Harwood’s time as President and CEO of Focus Diagnostics, the company consistently led the industry in developing diagnostics for new infectious disease agents such as West Nile virus and SARS. Previously, from 1993 to 2001, Mr. Harwood held several positions, including Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President of Venture Development at Covance, Inc., one of the largest pharmaceutical services companies, where he spearheaded numerous acquisitions and divestitures. Prior to Covance, Mr. Harwood worked for seven years in commercial real estate development and six years in the Medical Products Division of the Hewlett-Packard Company. He received an MBA from Harvard Business School and a Bachelor of Arts from Stanford University.

Under Mr. Sparks’ leadership, Accellent’s revenue tripled and all three of its major device categories – cardiology, endoscopy, and orthopedics – experienced significant growth. Mr. Sparks also led Accellent’s acquisition and integration of MedSource Technologies. Previously, he spent over 20 years in senior executive positions developing and marketing medical devices at Smith & Nephew, plc. From 1998 to 2003, Mr. Sparks served as President of the Endoscopy Division and as a member of the Group Executive Committee of Smith & Nephew. He is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts and the INSEAD Advanced Management Program in Fontainebleau, France.

Avista’s current portfolio of healthcare companies includes Nycomed, a pharmaceutical company focused on the sale of branded prescription and OTC drugs in the Nordic, continental Europe, and CIS regions; MedServe, a medical waste removal and destruction company servicing hospitals, health care clinics, doctors’ offices, and other generators of medical waste; BioReliance, a leading contract services provider focused on biological safety testing, toxicology, viral manufacturing, and laboratory animal diagnostic services; and VWR International, a leading global distributor of equipment and consumable supplies to the laboratory sector across all industries. In addition, while at DLJMB, the Avista team was significantly involved in healthcare investments in a number of verticals, including investments in: medical device companies such as Accellent and Kinetic Concepts; healthcare services companies such as Focus Diagnostics, Charles River Laboratories, and Fisher Scientific International; and pharmaceutical companies such as Warner Chilcott and Prometheus Laboratories.

About Avista Capital Partners

Avista Capital Partners is a leading private equity firm with offices in New York, NY and Houston, TX. Founded in 2005, Avista manages $2.0 billion in private equity capital. Avista’s strategy is to make controlling or influential minority investments primarily in growth-oriented media, healthcare and energy companies. Through its team of seasoned investment professionals and industry experts, Avista seeks to partner with exceptional management teams to invest in and add value to well-positioned businesses.