Growing up as part of Goya, the largest Hispanic-owned U.S. food company, Andy Unanue learned some vital lessons. “It was extremely important for my understanding of family business and the Hispanic market,” says Unanue, managing partner of AUA Private Equity Partners. Founded by Unanue’s grandfather in 1936, Goya now produces more than 2,200 products. The fourth-generation family business traces much of that success to a nuanced appreciation of Hispanic consumers.
Those two threads—Hispanic-oriented, family-owned—help define AUA’s investment strategy. They mirror Unanue’s resumé and those of his partners, Steven Flyer and David Benyaminy. The strategy is also grounded in demographic trends: the burgeoning Hispanic market and the aging baby boomer population, which is leading to ownership transitions at family-owned businesses. Says Flyer: “It’s really matching capability to opportunity.”
When Flyer and Benyaminy met Unanue in 2009, their complementary approaches to evaluating opportunities soon became clear. Benyaminy’s banking background gives him a highly analytical take on financials, while Flyer’s legal training honed his risk assessment. When they tuned into Unanue’s operational focus, it was an eye-opener, Benyaminy says.
“He wasn’t just another guy who worked at a bank for 15 years,” he says. “More and more, it’s difficult to make money by being financially creative. You need to have operational expertise to make companies better.”
AUA launched in 2012, and by December 2014 its first fund had more than $135 million in capital commitments. The GP has the second-largest stake in the fund, at $27 million.