Anthony to spearhead 3i SME sell-off

Bill Anthony has been charged with finding a home for a legacy portfolio of some 800 small and medium sized companies owned by 3i.

3i director Bill Anthony has taken over as head of the firm’s small and medium sized (SME) investments division, and will oversee the continuing divestment of its current portfolio.     

According to 3i’s website, Anthony joined the firm in 1996 and has been a director since last year. He spent his initial years with 3i investing in the UK’s Midlands region, before taking on a management role within the portfolio management team. Prior to 3i, Bill spent several years with Midland Bank (now HSBC) lending to individuals and enterprises in and around London. He replaces former SME head Charles Richardson, who has retired.

The London-listed international private equity group is currently disposing of its “legacy portfolio” of vintage minority investments in order to provide revenues to make a smaller number of larger investments.

Analysts believe the portfolio has a value of between £500 million and £1 billion ($900 million to $1.9 billion; €700 million to €1.5 billion). However, there is significant uncertainty because some of the investments date back over 20 years.

The portfolio has already been reduced from 1,200 companies to 800 over the past four years, and 3i hopes to sell most of the remainder by 2007. The disposal programme pre-dated the appointment of new 3i CEO Philip Yea last July, but he has affirmed his commitment to it.   

The firm insists that disposals will take place only when conditions are favourable. “We’ll only sell any individual equity stake if the price is right and when it’s a good time for the company,” said 3i’s communications director Patrick Dunne.