Castle Harlan promotes controller to CFO

Gary Bialik takes up his post at a time of transition for the New York-based firm, which is considering new investment opportunities after suspending fundraising for its sixth fund last summer.

New York-based Castle Harlan has promoted its controller, Gary Bialik, to chief financial officer and senior vice president, replacing Howard Weiss. Weiss left the firm earlier in July for Stella Point Capital, a New York-based private equity firm founded in 2012 by another Castle Harlan alumnus, former president Justin Wender. 

Bialik, who joined Castle Harlan in 2004, was formerly audit manager for Ernst & Young's financial services practice, focusing on the audit of private equity funds and hedge funds. He will have “administrative responsibilities in connection with the acquisition, funding, oversight, and disposition of portfolio investments,” according to the firm's website.

Bialik is taking up his post amid a period of transition for Castle Harlan. The firm's founding partners John Castle and Leonard Harlan, who set up the firm in 1987, have sought to establish a clear line of succession since 2006, when Justin Wender was named president, but Wender left in 2010, citing divergent perspectives on the firm's future direction.

Castle Harlan suspended fundraising efforts for its sixth vehicle, CHI Private Equity fund, in July 2015, when the firm was in the process of changing its name to CHI Private Equity. The firm was having trouble raising money and the fundraising environment was not favorable, so the board decided to suspend the sixth fund and focus on existing investments, said a person familiar with the matter. Three executives then left the firm: Howard Morgan, who was president of CHI Private Equity, and managing directors Tariq Osman and Heather Faust, though Osman and Faust continue to serve as independent directors. 

At present, Castle Harlan is considering its options, which could include structuring itself as a merchant bank, or exploring investment opportunities in areas outside private equity, another person familiar with the situation said. The firm is currently operating five portfolio companies from its previous funds four and five, and will continue to bring those investments into fruition, the person said. 

Castle Harlan's present portfolio companies include offshore oil rig operator Shelf Drilling, which the firm invested in 2012, Puerto Rico Burger King restaurant owner Caribbean Restaurants, which the company invested in 2012, and nutritional food distributor Gold Star Foods, which the firm invested in 2014. 

Castle Harlan Partners V is a vintage-2010 vehicle, which held a close on $800.5 million. Limited partners include Oregon State Treasury, Oregon Public Employees' Retirement System, North Carolina State Treasury and Michigan Department of Treasury, all of which were investors in the firm's fourth fund. The firm is currently investing from this fund. 

Castle Harlan has $7.6 billion in assets under management.