A joint venture with ties to businessman Jim Bernhard and his Baton Rouge-based private equity firm, Bernhard Capital Partners, scored a major victory today when the LSU Board of Supervisors voted against the recommendation of its own staff and paid consultant.
Rather than launch a public bid process for a private partner to modernize and operate the aging energy system on the main campus, the board voted to begin negotiating a long-term contract for the potentially lucrative deal with two competing ventures that submitted proposals to LSU earlier this year outside of a formal procurement.
The ventures, both of which have existing relationships with LSU and the state, are: Louisiana Energy Partners, which is owned, in part, by Bernhard Energy, a Bernhard Capital company, and Enwave Energy.
LAEP has a long-term deal with the state to provide energy services at the Shaw Center for the Arts, which enables it to also provide energy services to other state office buildings and can be amended to include other state facilities. Enwave Energy provides energy services to the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans.
Today’s action was orchestrated by the LSU board’s properties and facilities committee, which killed a measure that would have set in motion a formal, two-step public procurement process designed to attract the best players in the industry.
Instead, the committee approved a substitute motion, instructing LSU staff to begin negotiating directly with LAEP and Enwave and to bring two deals back to the board in 90 days. If, at that time, the board doesn’t feel either deal is good for LSU, then it will launch the procurement process.