Blackstone names head of European private equity

The firm has promoted Lionel Assant to head its European private equity group. Assant’s appointment follows the promotion of Joe Baratta to global head of private equity.

The Blackstone Group has named senior managing director Lionel Assant as head of its European private equity group, based in London.

Assant joined Blackstone in 2003 after working in investment banking for seven years at Goldman Sachs, where he was an executive director. His promotion comes less than two months after Blackstone promoted Joe Baratta to head of Blackstone’s global private equity group. Baratta, who had previously served as the head of Blackstone’s European private equity group, moved from London to New York for the job in July.

Blackstone declined to comment.

Before joining Blackstone in 1998, Baratta worked at Tinicum Incorporated, which manages private equity funds targeting the aerospace, HVAC components, magazine fulfillment, medical device, manufacturing and financial services sectors. He has also worked at Morgan Stanley and McCowen De Leeuw & Company.

While at Blackstone, Baratta led the acquisitions of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Merlin Entertainments Group, Center Parcs and Spirit Group, as addition to other portfolio companies.

Blackstone president Tony James said in February the firm would be increasing its focus on European opportunities in 2012, as prices in the region have fallen to attractive levels and competition has dried up.

“This coming year [Europe] will be the most active opportunity we’re going to have,” James said during a call announcing Blackstone’s fourth quarter and full-year 2011 earnings. Blackstone’s investment focus in Europe cuts across most of its asset classes, with attractive opportunities in private equity, real estate and credit investments, the firm said during the earnings call.

Credit investments represent a particularly attractive opportunity for Blackstone in Europe. Earlier this year, the firm announced plans to move a senior executive from its GSO Capital credit affiliate to Europe to continue its push for more exposure in the region.

Stephen Schwarzman and Peter Peterson founded Blackstone in 1985. The firm has 22 offices worldwide and its private equity group manages around $47 billion in assets, according to its website.