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Blackstone hires Nielsen CEO to head operations team

 Dave Calhoun will lead 21 operating professionals as the senior managing director and head of private equity portfolio operations, a new position.    

The Blackstone Group has hired Dave Calhoun, the chief executive officer of Nielsen Holdings, as a senior managing director and head of private equity portfolio operations.  

In the newly created position, Calhoun will oversee 21 professionals in the firm’s portfolio operations group. Previously, the top operations role at the firm was held by James Quella, a senior managing director and senior operating partner in the private equity group, who retired in April. Calhoun will report to Joseph Baratta, Blackstone’s global head of private equity, and will sit on the firm’s management committee and executive committee.  

In a statement, Blackstone chief executive officer Stephen Schwarzman called Calhoun “one of the most talented CEOs we have ever worked with” who will “guide our portfolio company operations as well as the strategic development of Blackstone itself”. 

Calhoun joined Nielsen in 2006 shortly after Blackstone acquired the company alongside a group of private equity firms. At Nielsen, Calhoun helped grow operating income from $800 million at the time of acquisition to $1.7 billion in 2012. He is a member of Nielsen’s board of directors and will become executive chairman in 2014.  

Prior to joining Nielsen, Calhoun was vice chairman of General Electirc and president and chief executive officer of GE Infrastructure, GE’s largest division. During his 26 years at GE, he held a number of operating, finance and marketing positions and ran GE Lighting, GE Employers Reinsurance, GE Aircraft Engines and GE Transportation. 

A number of private equity firms have hired operating executives this week. General Atlantic announced the appointment of Gene Lockhart, former president and chief executive officer of MasterCard Worldwide, as a special advisor Thursday. Former CIA chief technology officer Gus Hunt also joined LLR Partners as an operating partner on Monday. 

Blackstone’s hiring of Calhoun comes during the same week the firm’s Greater China chairman and senior managing director Antony Leung stepped down after seven years of service. Blackstone also exited an oil and gas investment in GeoSouthern Wednesday for $6 billion.