Apax hires second senior operator in Europe

The recruitment of ex-public company CFO Gary Hughes takes Apax Partners’ portfolio support team to 11 people

Apax Partners has hired Gary Hughes into its Portfolio Support Group (PSG), an internal team that helps the firm’s portfolio companies improve their operations.

Hughes has senior-level operating experience at a number of big corporates, including United Business Media and Scottish Media. Between 2008 and 2011, he was CFO of private equity-backed leisure group Gala Coral. He currently sits on the board of listed UK supermarket chain J Sainsbury, where he chairs the audit committee, and is a non-executive director of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre. 

Hughes’s role will involve working with the Apax deal team both before and after an investment is made – to identify potential issues pre-deal, and to work with management teams post-deal on specific projects.

“I wanted to do something different, not just another big executive role,” Hughes told Private Equity International. “I felt I was too young to go down the traditional plural route … I wanted a hands-on role rather than a ‘sit back’ non-executive position, but at the same time I wanted to keep my other external roles.” He is contracted to work about 100 days a year for Apax, so he can combine it with his other positions.

Apax formally constituted its PSG team about three years ago, under the leadership of Steve Hare, the former CFO of Invensys and Marconi, who had signed up as an operating partner a few months earlier. “We had a number of individuals in different offices, but my role was to bring them together as a global team and refocus on the skills we needed,” said Hare.

Although the team is now 11 people strong, Hughes is only the second senior Europe-based operating executive to join, after Hare himself. However, Hare – who also acted as Apax's COO until August this year, when he passed the role on to Ralf Gruss – has plans to build the team out: he wants to recruit another “two or three” senior operating people in Europe in the next “12 to 18 months”. 

Apax is currently raising its eighth buyout fund, which is targeting €9 billion. The firm held a first close at €4.3 billion in March.