Ara Partners Team

Charles Cherington

Managing Partner

Mr. Cherington co-founded Ara Partners in 2016 with William McMullen. Prior to that, Mr. Cherington founded Intervale Capital, LLC in 2006 after successfully managing two smaller private equity firms focused on buyouts in the energy, transportation and manufacturing sectors. Intervale Capital, LLC manages $1.3 billion of committed capital across three funds and makes investments in middle-market energy services and manufacturing companies and related technologies.

Mr. Cherington has over 25 years of private equity experience, and over a decade of investing exclusively in the energy sector. Before launching his first fund, Mr. Cherington worked for the Vietnam Fund in Hanoi and for Credit Suisse in New York. Mr. Cherington serves as a senior advisor and/or investment committee member to the other Ara Affiliate Firms.

Mr. Cherington received a Master of Business Administration, with honors, from the University of Chicago and a Bachelor of Arts in History from Wesleyan University.

Troy Thacker

Managing Partner

Mr. Thacker has over 20 years of financial and executive experience across the energy industry. He most recently, from 2014 to 2017, served as the President and 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, 150+ locations and serves multinational oil and gas, industrial, and process industry customers in more than 26 countries.

Prior to Total Safety, Mr. Thacker served as President and Chief Executive Officer of R360 Environmental Solutions, Inc., from 2010 until 2013. Mr. Thacker led R360 from a regional business into the nation’s largest drilling and production waste management provider for the oil and gas industry, completing nine acquisitions and growing revenue and cash flow by over 350% and ultimately selling the company in 2012 to Waste Connections, Inc. (NYSE:WCN) for $1.4 billion, approximately an 8x return for shareholders.

Prior to joining R360 Environmental Solutions, Inc., Mr. Thacker 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. Prior to co-founding Paine & Partners, LLC, in July 2006, Mr. Thacker was a Managing Director at Fox Paine & Company, the predecessor firm to Paine & Partners, LLC. Mr. Thacker has also previously worked for SCF Partners, a private equity investment firm focused on the energy services and equipment manufacturing markets.

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.

Mr. Thacker received a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from Rice University and also holds a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School.

Cory Steffek

Managing Director

Prior to joining Ara Partners, 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: upstream oil & gas; downstream oil & gas and value-added products; renewable energy; energy efficiency; industrials and water. Before joining SAEV, Mr. Steffek was in Corporate Development and Strategy at First Solar, where he was responsible for strategic investments and acquisitions with 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 has also 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 an MBA from The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Grant Haddix

Operations Partner

Mr. Haddix supports origination and evaluation of new investment opportunities. He has 29 years of experience in process, product, and business development with Shell in the chemicals and upstream areas. Mr. Haddix’s roles at Shell ranged from technical expert to commercial leadership. Most recently, he led development of Shell Chemicals EOR surfactants business. His strengths lie in technical and commercial leadership of process-based businesses.

His educational background is in chemical engineering with a B.S. from Iowa State University, and a PhD from University of California, Berkeley. He also holds an MBA from the University of Texas, Austin.

Jim Mahoney

Operating Partner

Mr. Mahoney brings over 25 years of senior executive experience at various specialty chemicals and biotechnology companies. He was previously Chief Executive Officer of Novomer Inc., Surface Logix Inc. and Prolinx Inc. Prior to his CEO roles, Mr. Mahoney held general management and senior functional positions at Dade Behring Inc., Baxter International, and FMC Corporation. He holds an MBA from Northwestern University's J.L. Kellogg School of Management, an MMA in international economics from the University of Southern California, and a B.S. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Johanna Schmidtke


Ms. Schmidtke is a Principal at Ara Partners. Prior to joining Ara Partners, 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: upstream oil & gas, downstream, petrochemicals, industrial IoT, cybersecurity, and additive manufacturing. 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 earned a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Cambridge as a Gates Cambridge Scholar and a B.S. from the University of Arizona.

James Wang


Mr. Wang is a Principal at Ara Partners. Prior to joining, Mr. Wang served as Vice President at First Reserve, a global oil and gas focused private equity firm with $31 billion of aggregate capital raised since inception, where he was responsible for overseeing origination, analysis, structuring, execution, and monitoring of investments. Mr. Wang worked at First Reserve for 10 years, where he deployed over $2.0 billion of equity capital primarily in investments related to the upstream energy sector. Prior to joining First Reserve, he worked in the Global Natural Resources Group, Investment Banking Division, at Lehman Brothers.

Mr. Wang lives in Houston and holds a B.B.A. and an M.P.A. from the University of Texas.

John Baik


Prior to joining Ara Partners, Mr. Baik was an analyst in Oppenheimer’s Energy Investment Banking group where he worked on oilfield service and E&P transactions.

Mr. Baik graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in commerce.

Karthik Narasimhan

General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer

Mr. Narasimhan was previously a Vice President and Senior Counsel at Affiliated Managers Group, Inc., a publicly traded (NYSE: AMG) 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 and other transactional matters.

Mr. Narasimhan received a B.A. from Brandeis University and a J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School.

Heather Amato

Chief Financial Officer

Ms. Amato is the Chief Financial Officer of Ara Partners. Prior to Ara Partners, Heather served as the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Compliance Officer at Rock Hill Capital Group, a private equity firm which focused on small to lower middle market companies and specialized in industrial products and oil field services. Prior to joining Rock Hill, Ms. Amato served as Vice President of Wealth Management Group at Kanaly Trust and as a Tax Manager for Margolis, Phipps & Wright, PC. She began her career at Arthur Andersen, PC in 1997.

Ms. Amato received a Bachelor of Business Administration and Master of Public Administration in Accounting from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a licensed Certified Public Accountant in the state of Texas.

Ms. Amato is a member of the American Institute of CPAs, Association for Corporate Growth and Private Equity CFO Association.

Laura Stamey


Prior to joining Ara Partners, 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 received 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. Ms. Stamey 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.

Marcus Smith

Director of Investor Relations

Mr. Smith is the Director of Investor Relations at Ara Partners. Prior to joining Ara Partners, 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 (MLPs), 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 earned a Master of Business Administration from Texas Southern University’s Jesse H. Jones School of Business. He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from Howard University.

Steve Cherington


Mr. Cherington leads Ara Partners Group’s research efforts across all sectors. Prior to Ara Partners, Mr. Cherington served as a Director at Intervale Capital, where he was responsible for oilfield services research and was involved with portfolio management. He has more than 12 years of experience in energy sector research. He started his career at MFS Investment Management, a mutual fund company with over $400 billion under management.

Mr. Cherington received 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

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

Mr. Waiter graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration from Merrimack College.

John Helms

Marketing Manager

Katherine Black

Office Manager

Katie Kolesar

Executive Assistant