Feature The Art of Brand Building TexT by Valerie DemicheVa Chuck Esserman TSG Consumer Partners founder, Chuck Esserman, is widely lauded as having a gift for picking winners. For three decades, his private equity firm’s net returns topped 24%, growing to nearly 30% over his last three funds and more than 35% for TSG’s most recent fund. Yet thirty years ago, Esserman’s brand-centric approach was met with skepticism. TSG was founded in 1987, the same year the film “Wall Street” debuted, and Michael Douglas’ character Gordon Gecko famously hissed “Greed is good.” In this iconic era of art imitat-ing life, many investment firms focused on leveraged-buyouts and often destroyed companies in the process. Esserman, who graduated with a degree in engineering from MIT and an MBA from Stanford, had a different idea. He wanted to invest in sec-tor-specific companies that his team could help grow through product innovation, expanded distribution and consumer mar-keting. Esserman and his team concentrated on non-cyclical goods like foods, beverages, and household products. 40 TSG started with Famous Amos, the cookie brand founded in the 1970s by talent agent Wally Amos, which by the late 1980s was losing $250,000 a month. With an injection of new man-agement, capital, and strategy, TSG made back 20 times its investment. Throughout the decades, TSG has found its sweet spot with middle-market consumer and retail companies that provide authentic value rather than merely inspired market-ing, as well as companies that create new product categories, like Vitamin Water. These days, sector-specific investing is the norm, rather than a risqué anomaly. But, despite other firms playing in his field, his three decades of experience give him a home-court advan-tage. Esserman no longer has to convince people of his strategy; his most recent fund was heavily oversubscribed with investor demand exceeding $6 billion just one week after printing the placement memorandum. Esserman sat down with us to share his story and his winning, long-view strategy.