Apax heavyweights to launch fund

Toby Wyles, the veteran Apax manager, is returning to the market with a blue-chip spinout of star deal-doers and operators from Apax, BC Partners and Bridgepoint.

Toby Wyles, formerly one of the global equity partners at top of buyout firm Apax Partners, is coming back to market in October with a star team of veteran deal-doers to launch a mid-market firm.

Vitruvian Partners, named after the Leonardo da Vinci study in proportion and balance known as the Vitruvian Man, is the first spin-out from Europe’s blue-chip buyout firms, since Harald Mix left Industri Kapital to found his own firm in 2003.

Leonardo da Vinci: a study in balance and proportion

Wyles, 45, who was with Apax for 13 years and co-head of its European leveraged team when he left in 2003, has recruited Michael Risman, also a global equity partner at Apax until October last year, and Ian Riley, 43 and a senior partner with rival firm BC Partners until he left in August 2003. 

Risman and Riley will be managing partners alongside Wyles.

David Nahama, a partner at Apax investing in venture deals and part of that firm’s technology and telco team, is joining Vitruvian as a partner. Mark Hartford, until 18 months ago chief financial officer at Bridgepoint, a European buyout group, is the final partner in the starting line-up. 

According to one fund of funds manager the firm intends to hire one more partner and a number of principals and associates. It also plans to appoint special partners with backgrounds in industry to help them identify and execute deals.

Wyles has already begun informal marketing of the firm, which is said by one investor to be targeting between €800 million to a €1 billion.

Vitruvian aims to invest in “dynamic situations where change drivers are present,” according to an investor. It is planning to put two-thirds of the money to work in the UK and the remainder it will invest opportunistically in northern Europe.

Pre-marketing literature highlights the fund’s focus as a return to the type of deals the team did before their previous firms moved up in scale. Vitruvian is aiming to invest between €15 million and €150 million in equity in deals that range between €150 million and €500 million in total transaction value.

The track record claimed by the new team boasts a money multiple of 3.7 times the original investment and internal rate of return of about 60%. Together the team has invested €1.3 billion in 23 deals with peaks including Fastline, a UK business Apax sold for seven times the original investment; Elis, a linen rental business, which BC sold for nearly six times its investment, and Cantrell and Cochrane, an Irish drinks business that made four times its money.

The management team is billed as a young and cohesive group, that was very senior within its previous firms, but which has not seen much of the economic upside yet.

Wyles declined to comment and Monument Group, which is advising on the placement of the fund, was not available for comment.