For a decade as Indiana Chamber of Commerce CEO, Christopher LaMothe pressed to enhance Indiana's business climate. Then he spent several years leading Oxford Financial Group Ltd.'s team of advisers for wealthy clients.
But the whole time, LaMothe aspired to be a dealmaker. Now, he's done something about it. This summer, he founded the one-man Ascendanci Ventures LLC and is on the hunt for prospects.
"I'm doing what I have dreamed about for the last 10 or 15 years," LaMothe said. "I just felt like if I didn't make the jump now, I never would."
Ascendanci aims to buy and grow firms with a high-end technology-based product or service that are capable of rapid growth. LaMothe said he's looking to assemble groups of investors for deals with sticker prices from $3 million to $10 million.
LaMothe is probably still best known for leading the Indiana Chamber from 1992 to 2002. In that span, he helped grow it from the 42nd- to the fifth-largest U.S. organization of its kind. Along the way, he established a Rolodex thick with business contacts of every stripe.
"Chris has probably one of the best networks of contacts in the state of Indiana, and people who will follow him anywhere, because they're inspired by him," said David Millard, chairman of Barnes & Thornburg's entrepreneurial services group. Millard plans to provide legal counsel for LaMothe's deals.
Until this spring, LaMothe was president and chief operating officer of Oxford, which provides financial services to individuals and has about $7 billion under management.
Both LaMothe and Oxford describe the parting as amicable. Oxford's leadership has reverted to CEO and founder Jeffrey Thomasson, said Managing Director Jeff Stroman. Oxford hasn't determined how it wants to permanently replace LaMothe.
"The reality is Oxford is comprised of a lot of entrepreneurs. I think everyone could relate to what Chris's goals were," Stroman said. "He's got a passion for it, and he's a very strong individual. My guess is he'll be successful."
Tony Schneider, managing director of locally based corporate financial consultant Schneider Huse & Associates LLC, expects LaMothe to concentrate on Indiana prospects.
Even though LaMothe's formal experience finding and brokering deals is limited, Schneider expects him to learn fast. Schneider Huse likely will advise LaMothe as opportunities emerge.
"Chris is a smart guy who can adapt and learn quickly," Schneider said. "I wish we had more people in this community with his desire to build businesses. And I've been encouraged that he has a willingness to put his own capital to work."
Even for someone like LaMothe, who has spent his career cultivating the conditions for companies and building relationships with the wealthy, the leap to entrepreneurship is daunting.
"It was not an easy decision, believe me. I had a wonderful opportunity at Oxford and a great group of employees. We were doing really well, and it was tough to walk away from that and my friends there," LaMothe said. "But I'm out hitting the pavement hard. And I'm having a blast."
Chris LaMothe runs Ascendanci Ventures, an investment firm, out of his home.