Eaton Partners loses all senior staff in Shanghai

Several placement agents in Asia have used the pandemic as an opportunity to pursue other avenues, such as moving in-house to GPs.

Eaton Partners has lost its two remaining senior executives in mainland China, Private Equity International has learned.

Shanghai-based directors Xiaoyan Shu and Haw Rer Au Yong left the firm earlier this year, according to three sources familiar with the matter. Shu joined GLP‘s Hidden Hill Capital as an investor relations executive in March, per LinkedIn. Au Yong’s destination is unclear.

Marketing associate Viki Zhong is the only remaining member of staff in Shanghai, two sources said.

Vice-president Hitesh Gumnani, analysts Alex Wei and Lily Kuang, and marketing associate Chelsea Ouyang also exited last year, according to their LinkedIn profiles. Analyst Kevin Huang is understood to have relocated to Hong Kong.

The departures follow that of Chris Lerner, who stepped down as Asia head and global partner in August, as PEI reported at the time. Thomas Yu, a senior director who joined Eaton’s Hong Kong office from UBS in 2019, has since been named head of Asia, two of the sources said.

Jackson Chan, former head of its Hong Kong office and Asia distribution business, left the same month as Lerner.

“Asia is a key market for Eaton Partners, and we continue to make strategic investments in our operations there,” a spokesman for the firm told PEI. “This includes right-sizing the team and upgrading talent as appropriate.”

The spokesman said Eaton’s new mandates in 2021 include Asian GPs seeking global distribution, as well as non-Asian GPs looking for distribution in Asia. The firm achieved more than $2 billion of capital raisings for Asia-Pacific GPs in 2020 across primary and secondaries strategies.

“We can be more effective in mainland China through our Hong Kong office,” the spokesman added. “Our intention is to be more, not less, active in mainland China and to better integrate into the broader Stifel platform.” Financial services firm Stifel acquired Eaton in 2016.

Eaton was voted placement agent of the year in Asia for four consecutive years from 2015 to 2018 in the annual PEI Awards, as well as Secondaries Advisor of the Year in Asia in 2016 and 2018. In 2019, Eaton Asia secured approximately $2.5 billion of capital for GPs including Singapore-based Jungle Ventures and Chinese GPs China Renaissance GroupLoyal Valley Capital and Quan Capital.

Several placement agents in Asia have used the pandemic as an opportunity to pursue other avenues, such as moving in-house to GPs. Lerner, for example, joined Chinese venture capital firm MSA; Dennis Kwan, former managing director in MVision’s Hong Kong office, left to launch a USD platform at Beijing-headquartered Harvest Investment Management; and James Lee, a Hong Kong-based principal at PJT Partners, joined US-headquartered Cerberus Capital Management as its head of Korea.