The Blackstone Group, whose energy arm has infused its private equity across the industry, has launched an investment platform for the offshore oilfield services sector that is led by former top executives with Pride International Inc.

The "investment mandate" for Houston-based Clarion Offshore Partners LLC "is broad and flexible," enabling it to pursue opportunities in "offshore drilling companies, shipyards, financial institutions, investors and oil and gas operators," Blackstone Energy Partners said. However, no details were disclosed on how much equity Clarion initially has available to spend.

"This is an opportune time in the industry for a well-capitalized and experienced team to provide creative financing and operational solutions," Clarion Chairman Louis Raspino, also a co-founder, said. Raspino previously was CEO of Pride from 2005 until 2011, when the offshore services operator merged with Ensco plc. He also is a board member for Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Forum Energy Technologies.

"Balance sheets are under severe pressure, existing operators are challenged to deploy assets, and related parties throughout the value chain are also facing financial pressures," he said. Clarion would be "a partner of choice to the industry..."

The Clarion executive team, also all co-founders, includes Pride's former General Counsel Greg Looser, Chief Commercial Officer Kevin Robert and COO Ron Toufeeq.

"Louis and the team are uniquely positioned to contribute deep strategic and operational expertise, having successfully led Pride and other organizations," said Blackstone Energy Partners Senior Managing Director Michael Ryder.

Many of Blackstone Energy Partners' investments have been in North America's onshore. However, all together it has invested more than $8 billion of equity globally across a range of sectors within the energy industry. For instance, in late 2012, Louisiana-based LLOG Exploration Co. LLC joined forces with the energy partnership to accelerate its deepwater operations in the Gulf of Mexico (see Daily GPINov. 12, 2012).