Ara Partners Team

Charles Cherington

Managing Partner

Mr. Cherington co-founded Ara in 2017 and co-heads the firm alongside Troy Thacker. He has more than 25 years of private equity experience in the industrial, energy and chemical industries in which he has executed over 50 transactions.

Prior to co-founding Ara, Mr. Cherington founded Intervale Capital in 2006 after successfully managing two smaller private equity firms focused on buyouts in the industrial, energy and transportation sectors. Intervale Capital has raised $1.3 billion of committed capital across three funds focused on middle-market infrastructure services and manufacturing companies. Mr. Cherington previously served as a Principal at Lochridge & Company, Vice President at the Vietnam Fund and an Investment Banking Associate at CS First Boston.

Mr. Cherington holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from Wesleyan University and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Chicago. Mr. Cherington serves on the Board of Directors of The Conservation Fund, a national land conservation organization.

Troy Thacker

Managing Partner

Mr. Thacker co-founded Ara in 2017 and co-heads the firm alongside Charles Cherington. He has more than 20 years of private equity and executive management experience in the industrial and energy sectors and has led over 30 private equity transactions over his career.

Prior to co-founding Ara, Mr. Thacker served as the Chief Executive Officer of Total Safety, Inc., a Warburg Pincus-backed international safety services company, headquartered in Houston, Texas. Total Safety has approximately 4,000 employees, over 150 locations and serves multinational energy, industrial, and process industry customers in more than 26 countries. From 2010 until 2013, Mr. Thacker served as President and Chief Executive Officer of R360 Environmental Solutions, Inc., selling the company in 2012 to Waste Connections, Inc. He was a founding partner of Paine & Partners, LLC, a private equity firm that together with its predecessors, manages in excess of $3 billion in equity capital across three institutional funds. Mr. Thacker was previously a Managing Director at Fox Paine & Company, the predecessor firm to Paine & Partners, LLC. He also previously worked for SCF Partners, a private equity investment firm focused on the energy services and equipment manufacturing markets.

Mr. Thacker holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from Rice University and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School. Mr. Thacker sits on the Council of Overseers of Jones Business School at Rice University and serves as a director of the Hermann Park Conservancy.

Cory Steffek

Managing Director

Mr. Steffek is a Managing Director at Ara and is involved with all aspects of the firm’s investment process. He has a long history as a private equity investor, with a particular focus on technology-oriented businesses.

Prior to joining Ara, Mr. Steffek was the Managing Director of North America at Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (“SAEV”), the corporate venturing subsidiary of Saudi Aramco. At SAEV he was responsible for identifying technology investments in energy efficiency, industrials, renewable energy, water, downstream and upstream oil & gas and value-added products. Before joining SAEV, Mr. Steffek worked in Corporate Development and Strategy at First Solar, where he was responsible for strategic investments and acquisitions, with an emphasis on new technologies and products. Prior to First Solar, Mr. Steffek was at the Altira Group, an energy-focused venture capital firm, where he led investments in a broad range of energy technology companies. In addition, he held several management roles in product development and engineering at PPG Industries.

Mr. Steffek holds a PhD in materials chemistry from the University of Michigan and a Master of Business Administration from The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Johanna Schmidtke

Managing Director

Ms. Schmidtke is a Managing Director at Ara and is involved with all aspects of the firm’s investment process. She has experience as a private equity investor, in corporate development, and strategy, all underpinned by a strong technical background.

Prior to joining Ara, Ms. Schmidtke was a Director at Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (“SAEV”), the corporate venturing subsidiary of Saudi Aramco. At SAEV, she led investments in technology-driven solutions of value to Aramco across a mandate including industrial IoT, additive manufacturing, petrochemicals, cybersecurity, downstream and upstream oil & gas. Prior to SAEV, Ms. Schmidtke worked with the Advisory practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers, where she advised clients on investments in the renewable energy sector. Additionally, Ms. Schmidtke was in Corporate Development and Strategy at First Solar, where she led a team overseeing competitive positioning and pricing. She also previously worked at Lux Research, a boutique advisory firm to materials, chemicals, and energy clients. Earlier in her career, Ms. Schmidtke was a post-doctoral researcher in the Center for Nano and Molecular Science and Technology at the University of Texas at Austin.

Ms. Schmidtke holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Arizona and a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Cambridge as a Gates Cambridge Scholar.

Grant Haddix

Operating Partner

Mr. Haddix is an Operating Partner at Ara, where he is primarily focused on technical and operational matters. He has 30 years of experience in process, product, and business development in the chemicals and upstream areas.

Prior to joining Ara, Mr. Haddix spent 29 years at Shell, focused on technical and commercial leadership of process-based businesses. His roles at Shell ranged from technical expert to commercial leadership. Most recently, he led development of Shell Chemicals EOR surfactants business.

Mr. Haddix holds a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from Iowa State University, a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Texas, Austin.

James Wang

Principal

Mr. Wang is a Principal at Ara and is involved with all aspects of the firm’s investment process. He has over ten years of experience as a private equity investor.

Prior to joining Ara, Mr. Wang served as Vice President at First Reserve, a global energy-focused private equity firm with $31 billion of aggregate capital raised since inception. Mr. Wang worked at First Reserve for ten years, where he deployed over $2.0 billion of equity capital and was responsible for overseeing origination, analysis, structuring, execution and monitoring of investments. Prior to joining First Reserve, he worked in the Global Natural Resources Group, Investment Banking Division, at Lehman Brothers.

Mr. Wang holds a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Texas, Austin.

John Baik

Associate

Mr. Baik is an Associate at Ara, where he is focused on transaction execution and portfolio company management.

Prior to joining Ara, he was an analyst in Oppenheimer’s Energy Investment Banking group, where he focused on energy transactions.

Mr. Baik holds a Bachelor of Science in commerce from the University of Virginia.

Natalie Rathjen

Associate

Ms. Rathjen is an Associate at Ara, where she is focused on transaction execution and portfolio company management.

Prior to joining Ara, Ms. Rathjen was an Analyst for the Corporate Investment Banking team and the Private Equity team of Commerce Street Capital, LLC and Commerce Street Investment Management.

Ms. Rathjen holds a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and International Relations and earned certificates in both Finance and Political Economy from Princeton University.

Karthik Narasimhan

Chief Operating Officer & General Counsel

Mr. Narasimhan manages all aspects of Ara’s legal and compliance functions. He has significant experience in transaction execution and structuring and tax matters.

Prior to joining Ara, Mr. Narasimhan was a Vice President and Senior Counsel at Affiliated Managers Group, Inc. (NYSE: AMG), a publicly traded company that invests in leading boutique investment management firms. Mr. Narasimhan advised AMG on a variety of domestic and international transactions. Prior to joining AMG, Mr. Narasimhan was an associate in the Boston office of Goodwin Procter, a prominent global law firm, where he counseled public and private companies and private equity firms on mergers and acquisitions, fund formation and other transactional matters.

Mr. Narasimhan holds a Bachelor of Arts from Brandeis University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Minnesota Law School.

Marcus Smith

Director of Investor Relations

Mr. Smith is the Director of Investor Relations at Ara. He has significant experience working with institutional investors in a variety of capacities.

Prior to joining Ara, Mr. Smith served as Director of Institutional Sales at Salient Partners. Salient offers a suite of strategies focused on real assets, comprised of master limited partnerships, real estate, and tactical alternatives, with over $9 billion in assets under management. During his tenure at Salient, Mr. Smith leveraged existing relationships with top U.S. consulting firms and pension plans to advance the firm’s standing in MLPs and risk parity opportunities. Earlier in his career, Mr. Smith was an account manager at Enron Energy Services.

Mr. Smith holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Howard University and a Master of Business Administration from Texas Southern University’s Jesse H. Jones School of Business.

Steve Cherington

Director of Operations

Mr. Cherington manages Ara’s research platform across all sectors. He has more than 14 years of experience in private equity research and portfolio management.

Prior to Ara, Mr. Cherington served as a Director at Intervale Capital, LLC and its predecessor, where he was responsible for energy and industrial research and was involved with portfolio management. He previously held several operational roles at MFS Investment Management, a mutual fund company with over $400 billion under management.

Mr. Cherington holds a Bachelor of Arts in economics from Wheaton College (MA) and a Master of Business Administration, with honors, from Kent Business School in Canterbury, England.

Brandon Waiter

Research Associate

Mr. Waiter is involved with research and investor relations matters across the Ara platform.

Prior to joining Ara, Mr. Waiter worked as an analyst with Energent Group, which provides market research and advisory services for clients across the energy sector.

Mr. Waiter holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Merrimack College.

Laura Stamey

Vice President of Finance

Ms. Stamey is involved with all aspects of Ara’s finance operations, including investor reporting, tax and audit.

Prior to joining Ara, Ms. Stamey was a Senior Manager at Condon & Company, P.C., a boutique CPA firm, in the Financial Advisory Services group. At Condon, she was primarily focused on financial and operational reporting, audit facilitation, and fund administration services. Ms. Stamey also has experience with system design and implementation, transaction support, and analytical tool development. Prior to Condon, Ms. Stamey served as an Experienced Audit Associate with Weinstein Spira & Company, and as an Associate at Occidental Petroleum.

Ms. Stamey holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting and a Master in accounting from Trinity University. She is a licensed Certified Public Accountant in the state of Texas. She is a member of the Texas Society of Public Accountants (TSCPA), the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), and the Junior League of Houston.

Ashlee Waak

Assistant Controller

Ms. Waak is involved with various aspects of Ara’s finance operations.
Prior to joining Ara, Ms. Waak was a Supervisor at Miller Grossbard Advisors, LLP, a boutique CPA firm, in their Tax Services group. At MGA, she was primarily focused on maintaining relationships with key clients, mentoring and training personnel, and ensuring that all projects were filed timely with federal and state agencies. Ms. Waak also has experience with financial reporting, software implementation, and fund administration services. Prior to MGA, Ms. Waak served as an associate in the Business Advisory Services department for Condon & Company, P.C., and as an Associate at Pricekubecka, PLLC.

Ms. Waak holds a dual Bachelor of Business Administration degrees in Finance and Accounting from Texas A&M University. She is a licensed Certified Public Accounting in the state of Texas and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

Katherine Black

Executive Assistant to Troy Thacker/Office Manager

Prior to joining Ara Partners, Ms. Black was Executive Assistant to C-Suite members of Total Safety, Inc., a Warburg Pincus-backed international safety services company. Prior to joining Total Safety, she worked with the Management teams at CRA, a global O&G tubing company based in Houston.

Ms. Black holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in French, English Linguistics and Education, from the University of Surrey, Roehampton. Formerly she was on the board of a 501c(3) charity for animals in foster care. She is an avid animal advocate, currently fostering the most vulnerable cases for various charities and shelters in the Houston area.

Katie Kolesar

Executive Assistant to Charles Cherington

Prior to joining Ara, Ms. Kolesar was an Executive Assistant at Intervale Capital, LLC.

Ms. Kolesar received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Hobart and William Smith Colleges.