Ross Butler is currently enrolled in the Yale SOM EMBA program, but he already has a post-graduation plan. Butler has launched a search fund, WD Capital Holdings (WDCH).
WDCH is an investment vehicle that Butler established to acquire a business with $1 to $3 million in annual EBITDA. He plans to purchase from an owner looking to transition out of the business, and Butler will assume the CEO role after closing the deal. “I want to be a leader and a CEO. I actually want to run a business and get my arms around the entire operation and organization. I do not want to be a small cog in a big machine anymore. A search fund is a perfect way for me to jump into the arena and lead and grow. I am really excited about the opportunity, and it is consistent with Yale SOM’s mission of educating leaders for business and society. I am going to be a leader—immediately,” said Butler.
Butler is pursuing a self-funded search. He has not raised any external capital to date: “I want as much control as possible for as long as possible. I am not against raising outside funds, but the longer I can delay that, the more flexibility, control, and economics I retain. I am lucky that I have some funds from my previous professional experiences to self-finance my venture. I have been very thoughtful about the process, and outside capital may sometimes be misaligned with my own personal objective of running a business for the long term.”
Before attending Yale, Butler founded a real estate holdings company that focused on acquiring and managing mixed-use commercial and multifamily assets in the eastern U.S. Previously, he worked in the construction industry for 10 years as an account executive for Trane Technologies, where he focused on selling HVAC equipment to commercial and industrial clients in New York City. “I have some strong customer acquisition and sales skills. That will be a big help in growing and running any business I acquire. I am looking forward to using all of my previous professional experiences and my academic training at Yale to identify the best business for me and run it. I am agnostic about what type of business I purchase; instead, I am focused on the economic characteristics and the business model. I want something with recurring revenue, low capital requirements, an absence of customer concentration, and some defensible competitive advantage in the marketplace,” said Butler.
Butler believes that searching while still in the Yale community is advantageous. “I have access to Yale’s infrastructure and resources, which is wonderful. Even more importantly, I tap my friends and peers at SOM. Bouncing ideas and topics off of my classmates is a huge help. I speak monthly with Yale SOM alum Judd Lorson, who did a search fund a few years ago and is now a CEO—Judd has been a fantastic mentor and resource. The Yale ecosystem is emotionally supportive and brings a huge injection of intellectual capital to my project. It is also neat to sit in class and learn with the lens of searching and running a business in my head. It brings another dimension of crispness and utility to the academic curriculum at SOM,” said Butler.
When asked about his time at Yale, Butler explained, “Yale has been super. I love the community. The faculty has been great, and the courses have really stimulated me to go out and lead and build a business—and I am ready. Being part of Yale has been fun and a nice chapter in my personal and intellectual development. I am grateful for all the personal connections I have established in the SOM community. Being surrounded by so many smart and high-achieving people has been stimulating and motivating—I feel pushed, challenged, and stretched every day. I am looking forward to taking everything that I have gained here and applying it in my next chapter as a CEO and entrepreneur. I can’t wait.”