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Originally published January 8, 2014 at 4:29 PM | Page modified January 9, 2014 at 5:30 PM

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Mexican tycoon buys big stake in Seattle’s SSA Marine

Mexican businessman Fernando Chico Pardo has replaced Goldman Sachs as the big minority partner in the corporate parent of SSA Marine, one of the world’s largest port operators.

Seattle Times business reporter

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A new partner has bought a big minority stake in the parent company of Seattle-based port operator SSA Marine, replacing a Goldman Sachs-managed private equity fund.

The move comes as the transportation behemoth, which manages ports around the globe, rejiggers its finances to fund the investments needed to deal with ever bigger vessels.

The new partner, Mexican tycoon Fernando Chico Pardo, acquired 49 percent of FSR Capital from the founding Smith/Hemingway family, after the family had bought back a similar stake from an infrastructure fund managed by Goldman Sachs.

The transaction closed Tuesday, according to a news release by Carrix, the FSR Capital unit that is SSA Marine’s direct parent. The parties didn’t disclose financial details.

The Goldman Infrastructure Partners fund’s stake in the port operator dates back to 2007. Until then, the company had been entirely owned by the Smith/Hemingways, which held on to majority ownership.

Carrix senior vice president Bob Watters said that the fund’s exit was “pretty typical” for an institutional investor after six years. A Goldman Sachs spokeswoman confirmed the sale occurred this week but declined additional comment.

Watters said in a phone interview that Chico Pardo was “a great match” because he runs a family-based company with a similar long-term vision.

Through the transactions, the Smith/Hemingway family also increased its investment in the company. The capital infusion comes as the company prepares to refinance existing debt, Watters said.

The money will go to existing facilities and to grow the company’s portfolio at a time when increasing vessel tonnage requires beefing up its current port infrastructure and adding new equipment, Watters added.

A spokesman for Chico Pardo couldn’t be immediately reached for comment. The Mexican businessman graduated from the Kellogg School of Management in 1976, according to a 2010 profile posted on the school’s website.

Chico Pardo is not new to transportation infrastructure: he heads Grupo ASUR, which operates nine airports in Mexico, including those in tourist hot spot Cancún and oil hub Villahermosa. He also sits on the board of the United Nations Global Compact, an alliance of businesses committed to adopting human-rights, transparency and environmental initiatives.

SSA Marine is a port operations giant, with a hand in 210 terminal facilities and rail ports all over the world. Recently it finished a major expansion of the 272-acre Oakland International Container Terminal. Through its affiliates it has ongoing expansion projects in the United States, Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Vietnam.

Among its many projects is the controversial Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point, which would mostly export coal to energy-hungry Asia and has triggered a huge backlash from environmentalists.

Ángel González; 206-464-2250 or On Twitter: @gonzalezseattle

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