Ric Abel, managing director and principal at Prudential Capital Energy Partners, the mid-market energy finance business sponsored by Prudential Capital Group, is set to retire in the coming weeks after 30 years with the asset manager.
Abel joined Prudential Power Funding Associates in 1989, when the business was located in Newark, N.J., and has spent most of the intervening years focused on project finance, mezzanine and private equity investments in the power sector.
In 1995 he switched his focus to workouts at Prudential Capital Group, still in Newark, and in 1998 he relocated to Dallas, where he worked in general corporate finance and oil and gas, reporting to Randall Kob.
In 2004, Prudential asked him to restart the power group with a promotion to managing director, which he did, assembling a team including Richard Carrell, Jennifer Graham, Ingrida Soldatova and Parag Patel.
“I love doing deals, loved running the group,” he says. “Had a lot of fun with it.”
Prudential brought in Wendy Carlson from Marathon Capital to take over the day-to-day operations from Abel in 2015, allowing him to focus on higher-risk investments such as mezzanine capital deals (PFR, 2/11/15).
In this role, he was part of the Prudential Capital Energy Partners team that put together the insurer's first fund focused on mid-market mezzanine capital investments in the North American energy sector, which raised some $343 million (PFR, 9/11).
His retirement coincides with his 30th anniversary at Prudential, which is May 26, and over that time, he has witnessed dramatic changes in the firm’s portfolio.
“When I started in ’89, probably 40% of our project portfolio was coal,” he said during a PFR roundtable in 2017. “By the late 90s, 40% of it was gas. By ’07 or ’08, 40% of it was wind, and I would say two years from now, 40% of it might be solar.”
But he did not romanticize the transition.
“We look at economics first, second, and third, and that’s what drives it,” he said. “The market opportunity has, more than anything, led to that shift in concentration” (PFR, 7/17/17).
Finance was Ric Abel’s second career, his first having been as a professional dancer in the 1970s and 80s.
He worked with companies including the San Francisco Ballet, the Irish National Ballet, the Eglevsky Ballet Company, Ballet Oklahoma and North Carolina Dance Theatre.
The rigors of professional dance helped mold Abel’s character in a way that helped him later on in business, according to a 2009 interview with a Dallas business magazine. “I felt I was very prepared,” he said. “I know how to work harder and longer than most people” (D CEO, April '09).
Besides performing as a dancer, he also tried out a variety of other roles in the industry, including negotiating dancers’ contracts and helping with fundraising, but in 1987 he decided on a career change and enrolled in Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
“I wanted to make some money. I wanted to have a kid,” he said. “I really enjoyed dancing but didn’t want to do another aspect of the industry.” He received his MBA in 1989.