Blue Owl explores Asia expansion with placement agent tie-up

Hong Kong-based Ascentium Group was founded in 2020 by James Lee, former head of Asia distribution at Credit Suisse.

Blue Owl Capital, the entity created by last month’s merger between Dyal Capital Partners and Owl Rock Capital, is exploring opportunities in Asia through a tie-up with a regional placement firm, Private Equity International has learned.

Hong Kong-based Ascentium Group was founded last year as a joint venture with Owl Rock, according to a source with knowledge of the matter. It is led by James Lee, former head of Asia distribution for Credit Suisse’s private fund group, and serves as placement agent for Blue Owl products.

Blue Owl will consider expanding its presence in the region in conjunction with Ascentium, the source added. Blue Owl has offices in New York, Silicon Valley and London. GP stakes focused-Dyal had operated from Neuberger Berman’s offices in Hong Kong.

Rita Ng, a Hong Kong-based managing director in Dyal’s business services platform, and vice-president Jeong Kim, have been seconded to Ascentium, the source said. Ng joined Dyal in 2017 and was responsible for managing its relationships with institutional investors in Asia-Pacific, according to a now-deleted profile on the Neuberger Berman website.

Dyal’s Hong Kong team will continue to provide services to its partner managers, according to a source familiar with the firm’s planning.

Blue Owl declined to comment. Ascentium did not return a request for comment.

Lee, who departed Credit Suisse in 2019, was formerly a colleague of Owl Rock founder Doug Ostrover at Blackstone. He is joined at Ascentium by Kwanho Choi, who led Credit Suisse’s Korean distribution activity in Seoul before his departure in H1 2020, as reported by PEI. Their moves came amid a wider shake-out of talent in Asia.

New York-based Blue Owl, which was formed in May, offers public investors exposure to GP stakes and direct lending, two fast growing segments in private markets. The combined entity had $52.5 billion of assets under management as of 31 March.

The merger was initially uncertain. In February, credit manager and Dyal portfolio company Sixth Street Partners sued to try to prevent the deal on the basis that Owl Rock, which is also a Dyal manager, is a direct competitor. Another credit manager in Dyal’s portfolio, Golub Capital, followed suit later that month. The fracas raised questions over whether the GP stakes model is fraught with potential conflicts of interest.

Courts ruled in favour of Dyal and Owl Rock in April this year, with one judge noting that Sixth Street’s litigation, and that of Golub’s, were intended to “muck up” the merger to force a buy-back.

– This article was updated to clarify the outcome of Sixth Street and Golub’s litigation.