3i CEO Larcombe to leave in July

3i, the UK-based venture capital and buyout firm, has announced that chief executive Brian Larcombe is to resign in July 2004: no successor has yet been named.

Brian Larcombe, chief executive of 3i, has announced his intention to leave the company in the summer.

Larcombe, 50, has been with the business for 30 years and became finance director when it floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1994. He attained the chief executive role in 1997 when succeeding Ewen Macpherson.

“Brian has made a tremendous contribution to 3i during his 30 years here, and in particular during his last 12 years when he has led the transformation of 3i from a largely UK-focused business to Europe’s largest venture capital company,” said 3i chairman Baroness Hogg in a statement.

3i said the search was underway to identify Larcombe’s successor and that it was looking outside the company as well as considering “strong internal candidates”. Possible successors from within the 3i ranks include the likes of Michael Queen (finance director), Martin Gagen (CEO and president US and Asia Pacific) and Jonathan Russell (global head of buyouts).

Larcombe made strenuous efforts to diversify 3i by sector and geographic region. Its enthusiastic support for technology companies meant some initial successes followed by inevitable write-offs as the downturn took hold. The firm’s share price soared from 272 pence on flotation to 1,772 pence in September 2000, but had fallen back to 613.5 pence by the close of trading yesterday.

Towards the end of last year, 3i saw a quartet of senior executives headed by Tom Sweet-Escott leave to set up a new private equity firm, Exponent Private Equity, which is understood to be announcing a closing of its debut mid-market fund next month. 3i’s latest pan-European buyout fund is scheduled for a final closing this summer on around €3 billion – although approximately €2.2 billion of the total is being committed by 3i itself.
In a separate announcement ahead of its preliminary results on 13 May 2004, 3i said it had invested £794 million and realised £807 million in the 11 months to 29 February 2004: compared with £273 million invested and £503 million realised in the first six months.         

In addition, it said it expected the level of provisions for failed investments and down rounds for the year to 31 March 2004 would be “substantially lower” than the same period last year.