Eaton recruits ex-MVision MD to replace outgoing Hong Kong boss

Thomas Yu's departure comes amid a wider shake up of Eaton Partners' leadership in Asia, including the loss of all senior staff in Shanghai earlier this year.

Eaton Partners has recruited a former MVision managing director to replace the outgoing boss of its Hong Kong office, Private Equity International understands.

Jonathan Lee joined Eaton in Hong Kong this month, according to three sources with knowledge of the matter. Lee spent six years at MVision, including most recently as managing director, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Lee will replace Eaton’s senior director Thomas Yu, who is leaving the firm, one of the sources said. Yu joined Eaton in 2019 following an 18-year stint at UBS, including most recently as executive director and portfolio manager for infrastructure and private equity. His destination is unclear.

Lee’s departure from MVision is understood to have been amicable, a source said. The firm has identified a successor, the identity of which is unclear.

MVision declined to comment.

Eaton spokesman Neil Shapiro told PEI in an emailed statement: “As our global business continues to thrive, we are making significant investments to add talent throughout the firm for the benefit of clients. Jonathan Lee brings extensive experience working with both fund managers and institutional investors across the Asia-Pacific region, and we are pleased to welcome him to Eaton Partners.”

Lee’s move comes the same month that investment bank Oppenheimer & Co recruited four ex-MVision employees to lead a new fund placement and advisory business, according to a statement. The team is led by Tanya McHale, who spent about 13 years at MVision in London over two spells, including as a partner between 2001 and 2008, and as a managing director from 2015 onwards, per her LinkedIn.

McHale is joined at Oppenheimer by Andrew Roberts, who joined MVision as senior director from Cebile Capital last year; former senior associate Marcus Klasse; and former associate Curran Gaur.

Yu’s departure comes amid a wider shake up of Eaton’s leadership in Asia. The firm lost all senior staff in Shanghai earlier this year, as PEI reported in June.  The moves followed that of Chris Lerner, who stepped down as Asia head and global partner, and Jackson Chan, former head of its Hong Kong office and Asia distribution business, last year.

Chan has since reunited with a number of former Eaton colleagues to launch tech-enabled GP advisory Thrive Alternatives, PEI reported in September. Chan’s colleagues at Thrive include Gianluca D’Angelo, Eaton’s former head of EMEA, and Robin Tyrangiel, a former managing director.

Thrive’s launch went against the grain in Asia, with many placement agent executives opting to move in-house during the pandemic. 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.

The placement agent model has evolved in recent years to include a raft of extended advisory services and mandates, a process that has been catalysed during the pandemic by a flight to familiarity and inability to perform in-person due diligence, as PEI explored in its October deep dive.

“There’s a real inflection point for the placement agent model to shift and turn in an entirely different direction,” Bob Brown, a veteran fundraiser who was included in PEI’s Rainmaker 50, said last month.

“You can call somebody and get advice about how to raise a fund or whether you can do a continuation vehicle. But there’s almost no one who holistically sits down with the head of that private equity firm and says, ‘Let’s pick through all of the things that are on your mind, whether that’s new products, succession or the monetisation of franchise value within a GP stakes transaction.’”