Garland S. Tucker III, who co-founded Triangle Capital and spearheaded the buildup of an investment portfolio that is approaching $1 billion, has stepped down as CEO.
The publicly-traded Raleigh investment firm announced after the markets closed Wednesday that Ashton Poole, president and chief operating officer since joining the company in 2013, has been promoted to succeed the 68-year-old Tucker as CEO, effective immediately. Poole, a Raleigh native who hails from a prominent local family, joined Triangle Capital after 19 years as an investment banker at Morgan Stanley as part of a succession plan adopted by the business.
Tucker will continue to be chairman of the Raleigh-based company. In addition, he said in an interview, he will be “available as a resource” to Poole.
Tucker co-founded what is now Triangle Capital in 2002 and has led the business, which is headquartered on Glenwood Avenue, since its inception. He took the company public in 2007.
Triangle Capital makes loans to “lower middle market companies” – privately held businesses with positive cash flow and revenue ranging from $20 million to $200 million. It also takes a minority ownership stake in its portfolio companies.
At the end of the third quarter, Triangle Capital, had an investment portfolio of $968.1 million that encompassed 93 companies scattered nationwide. As a federally regulated business development company, or BDC, the 26-employee company is required to distribute at least 90 percent of its taxable income to shareholders, making it a dividend play for investors.
Triangle Capital “has been one of the best performing BDCs over the past five years based on ROE (return on equity) generation, credit quality, dividend growth and stock price performance,” analyst Troy Ward of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods wrote in a recent research note.
One of the achievements Tucker is most proud of is the company’s dividend record. Triangle Capital touts that its annual dividend of $2.16 per share is tops among the more than 50 publicly traded BDCs.
“As I look at the business, I think we are arguably the leading investor (of its type) in the lower middle market,” Tucker said. “The exciting thing is, even though we are the largest in that sector of market finance, we don’t even come close to dominating that market. So we’ve got a lot of room to grow.”
Tucker said Poole has proven since he joined the company that he’s the right person to lead the business. He described Poole as hard-working and possessing “a good understanding of the capital markets and, I would say, good, solid common sense.”
Poole, 49, is likewise high on the company’s future – and the team that he has inherited.
“This is a group of high-quality individuals,” he said. “There are no weak links in this organization.”
“TCAP,” Poole added, referring to the company’s stock ticker, “is in no need of a revolution. TCAP may be in need of some evolution, but that is still TBD. ... I have no major changes planned near-term.”
Poole, who has a bachelor’s degree from UNC-Chapel Hill and an MBA from Northwestern University, is the son of Gregory Poole Jr., former CEO of Raleigh-based Gregory Poole Equipment.
Poole said he learned a lot about managing people from his father.
“My dad was very participative in his leadership style,” Poole said. “He surrounded himself with very, very good people and encouraged those people, enabled those people, supported those people to help grow the business. The business could never have gotten to where it has gotten to without the employees that surrounded dad.”
In recent years Tucker has moonlighted as an author, writing a pair of history books focused on notable conservatives: “The High Tide of American Conservatism: Davis, Coolidge and the 1924 Election” and “Conservative Heroes: Fourteen Leaders Who Shaped America.” A reviewer for The Wall Street Journal declared the former “a perfect guide” to a little-known nook of American history.
“I’m not necessarily planning a third (book) but if something comes along that piques my interest, maybe I’ll take the bait,” Tucker said.
Earlier Wednesday, Triangle Capital shares closed at $17.53, up 12 cents. Its shares have fallen 8 percent this year.