Fifty finest

Private Equity International is proud to present its selection of markettransforming individuals who give shape and character to private equity today. The list, which is not a ranking, is ordered alphabetically.

Carlyle's man in Tokyo

For international private equity firms seeking to flourish in markets suspicious of their motives, the approach of Carlyle Group's buyout team in Japan should perhaps be used as a template. The firm arguably made its breakthrough in the country in June 2004 with the acquisition of wireless data provider DDI Pocket. According to many observers, the deal was notable as much for the Carlyle's team's ability to win the trust of management as for its $2 billion price tag. In a country in which private equity was until then synonymous with vulture investing, this was no mean feat. Carlyle Japan managing director and orchestrator-in-chief Tamotsu Adachi has perhaps done as much as anyone to transform the perception of private equity in this slumbering giant of a market.

Mid-East rising star

Two years ago, few industry professionals would have heard of Sameer Al Ansari. Today, he is on his way to becoming a household name. Under his leadership, Dubai International Capital has become a prominent player in big-ticket private equity. A number of bold bets on prominent public and private companies in Europe propelled DIC onto the private equity firmament; ever since the recent sale of Madame Tussauds to Blackstone, its star has risen further. DIC's pursuit of Liverpool Football Club also boosted its reputation as a serious acquirer, even though the effort ended in disappointment earlier this year. As a well funded investment vehicle acting on behalf of the seriously ambitious Dubai government, DIC is one of the drivers behind the ongoing evolution of private equity in the Middle East and North Africa. Established in October 2004, the group currently looks after $6 billion of invested and committed capital. Regional and international markets are part of the mandate, direct and indirect investment expertise make up the skill set. So rapid has been DIC's advance that some observers have questioned the project's sustainability. But Al Ansari is unfazed: his is a firm commitment to making sure that people equate the group's name with “smart money from the Middle East”.

Secretive but substantial

With executive director Al Darmaki in the driving seat, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) has become one of private equity's biggest institutional LPs. Founded in 1976, ADIA is also one of the most secretive investors in the asset class. Its funds under management have not been made official but are believed to be somewhere between $300 and $500 billion. Private equity is an important component in ADIA's allocation strategy. It invested $600 million in the flotation of AP Alternative Assets, the Apollo Management vehicle listed on Amsterdam's Euronext exchange, in August 2006. Says one Paris-based GP: “ADIA is by far the most powerful LP in the Middle East – nobody really knows how powerful because it is such a secretive organisation, but it invests huge amounts of capital in private equity globally.” Other powerful LP groups based in the region include the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), which manages Kuwait's financial reserves, the Qatar Investment Authority and the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development.

The big deal dealer

Whenever a huge buyout is announced – think TXU – chances are high that Goldman Sachs is the lead banker. And in these cases, chances are even higher that the deal began with Milton Berlinski walking into the meeting room. The highly respected co-head of the financial sponsors group (Alison Mass is the other cohead) took the helm after serving as vice chairman of Goldman's financial institutions group. Berlinski's high profile has helped his firm exponentially grow its business with large buyout firms, aided of course by the fact that its largest clients have ballooned in recent years (in part to keep pace with Goldman's dominant merchant banking arm).

Capital markets maestro

During a recent discussion on private equity at a Milken Institute conference, fellow panelists David Rubenstein, David Bonderman and Thomas Lee on more than one occasion deflected tough questions by saying, “Ask Leon.” Indeed, Black's Apollo Management isn't the biggest private equity firm, but it may have the greatest appetite for complexity – not surprising given Black's scarily virtuosic abilities in the capital markets. When not executing “hairy” deals, Black is expanding his firm's horizons through intricate public listings on Euronext, Nasdaq and a new private exchange being launched by Goldman Sachs. Go ahead and ask Leon what he's doing next, but the former Drexel pro won't tell.

Sao Paulo player

Bonchristiano, the co-head of Brazil's GP Investimentos, pursues an aggressive and globally minded form of investment in South America's largest private equity market. After obtaining a degree in politics, philosophy and economics from the University of Oxford, Bonchristiano worked at Salomon Brothers in London and New York before joining GP Investimentos in 1995. His firm profited though innovative deals with Chicago's Sam Zell as well as taking an affiliated entity public on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange. As LPs show more demand for the B in BRIC, Bonchristiano is among the most sought after private equity investors.

The gutsy professor

The pool of teachers at Tulane University's school of law is not the most well known breeding ground for great investors, but David Bonderman is exceptional in this and many other respects. Following his stint as an assistant professor, Bonderman moved to corporate law and then to the family office of Texas' Robert Bass. After performing brilliantly for Bass, Bonderman and two partners launched Texas Pacific Group (now TPG) with an auspicious first deal – the turnaround of Continental Airlines. Bonderman is known for his ability to quickly understand the fundamentals of a business, and for his roll-up-the-sleeves, contrarian approach to investing. From his base in Fort Worth, Texas, Bonderman is a man of the world in both his investment ambitions and his environmentalist activism. Sometimes the two ambitions blend, as in the proposed buyout of power generator TXU, with its cleanenergy agenda. Bonderman also probably possesses private equity's wickedest wit. He once called US President George W. Bush “the worst president since Millard Fillmore – and that's probably an insult to Millard Fillmore”. This candour and sense of humour have been valuable in helping his firm give confidence to the managers of struggling companies that TPG will make for a winning partner. As Bonderman himself put it in a rare 2003 interview with The Harbus, the student newspaper of his alma mater Harvard Business School: “In the private equity business, there's no deal unless you can persuade somebody to sell you their business.”

Europe's standard bearer

Permira managing partner Damon Buffini is unquestionably part of a European buyout elite whose members' list also features names such as Mike Smith (CVC), Martin Halusa (Apax Partners), Robin Hall (Cinven) and Gordon Bonnyman (Charterhouse Capital). But, having taken over responsibility for the strategic direction of the former mid-market operator (previously known as Schroder Ventures) in 2000, Buffini has stood out even from this star-studded crowd in having led the transformation of his firm into a global mega-deal powerhouse. Rising to the challenge of facing down fierce critics in trade union ranks has only served to bolster the perception of Buffini as a voice that really matters in today's European LBO market.

Russia's prime mover

Under Calvey's leadership, Moscow-based Baring Vostok Capital Partners has raised a $1 billion fund – the biggest buyout fund ever raised for investments in Russia – thereby establishing itself as the dominant private equity player in the country. Before moving to Moscow in 1994, Calvey plied his trade out of London and New York, where he worked for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Salomon Brothers. Says one London-based banker: “Calvey has really helped to put Russia on the map for LPs. Most LPs are suspicious of investing in what they consider to be a tricky market, but the success of Baring Vostok has done wonders for the perceived attractiveness of the Russian market.” Calvey is one of a handful of Western émigrés to have made their mark in the country. Also prominent is Patricia Cloherty, chairman and CEO of Delta Private Equity Partners and former co-chairman of Apax Partners.

Seminal in secondaries

In 1990, Coller Capital was launched to help develop a market in private equity secondaries. Since then, the history of the firm and its eponymous founder Jeremy Coller has been dotted with a series of notable events: in 1994, Europe's first secondaries fund; in 1998, the first global secondaries fund; followed by the world's largest secondaries fund closings in 2002 ($2.6 billion) and April this year ($4.5 billion). The most recent fund was reported to be substantially oversubscribed and could have raised as much as $5.6 billion. CalPERS private equity head Leon Shahinian (one of Coller's biggest backers) recently said the firm “stands out among private equity secondary firms – they have an exceptional team and are a true leader in their field.” And at the head of the team is the irrepressible Jeremy Coller.

Doing it his way

The founder of New York-based Ripplewood Holdings is loath to talk about what he'll do next – he hates the idea of giving away even one iota of the years of research and contacts he develops before making a move. During the 1990s, he traveled to Japan dozens of times before sealing the deal for Shinsei Bank – among the best private equity bets ever. His maverick turns are sometimes greeted with puzzlement, as when Collins converted his firm's Japan partnership into a holding company traded on the Brussels Euronext (a precursor to the current wave of private equity firm IPOs). Collins is now spending a great deal of time in the Middle East, likely the location of yet another surprise move.

High-flying Dutchman

“I wish I could retire in Holland. Thanks to the likes of AlpInvest, Dutch pensioners will be eating caviar.” Thus spoke a fellow European limited partner in a recent interview with PEI. It's an apt compliment – not only for one of Europe's most progressive pension systems, but also for an organisation that, ever since its inception in 1999, has been at the forefront of global private equity. Powered by €30 billion in commitments from its two sponsors ABP and PGGM, the group is one of those rare LPs that don't really have the access problem: if AlpInvest wants in, most general partners will make room. With offices in Amsterdam, New York and Hong Kong, AlpInvest is the prototype of the modern-day limited partner: globally active, with a large and seasoned team, strong in secondaries and even stronger in direct co-investment. Managing partner and CEO Volkert Doeksen oversees the organisation along with eight fellow members of the so-called “investment meeting”. They are the ones responsible for making sure that the firm's unassuming headquarters on the outskirts of Amsterdam remains a fixture on the itinerary of the world's GPs.

Silicon Valley centre of gravity

Enter the words “legendary VC” into a Google search and the top result is John Doerr. The Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner is the best known and best connected Silicon Valley venture capitalist, which makes him the de facto highest profile venture capitalist in the world. His investments in Amazon, Intuit, Sun Microsystems and, yes, Google, among other mind-blowing successes, have solidified Kleiner Perkins' commanding role among the small handful of Menlo Park keiretsu. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos calls Doerr “the centre of gravity in the internet”. Unlike top buyout pros, Doerr has built the image of venture capitalists as global do-gooders who create jobs, further technology and improve the environment.

The Fortress opener

Before the term “convergence” came into vogue, Wes Edens, chief executive of New York-based Fortress Investment Group, was building an investment platform that would span private equity, real estate, lending and even aircraft investment. His firm is the classic tight-lipped investment partnership, and yet it recently went public on the New York Stock Exchange in a move that prompted dozens of GPs to ponder similar listings. They'll have to show similarly explosive growth – already in the past year Fortress' AUM has increased 72 percent to $36 billion. At 45, Edens and his firm appear to have arrived at the future of private equity well ahead of rivals.

Japan's buyout pioneer

Founded in 1998, Unison Capital became one of the “big three” independent Japanese fund managers alongside Advantage Partners and MKS Partners. While the history of the other two firms pre-dates Unison, markets sources name Unison co-founder John Ehara as the founding father of Japan's buyout industry. Says one: “He was the first to begin applying the Western buyout model to Japan – a true pioneer.” A former partner at Goldman Sachs (one of the youngest in the firm's history), Ehara became the voice of Japanese private equity in 2005 when elected the first chairman of new industry body the Japanese Private Equity Association.

Rustbelt rejuvenator

At press time, Feinberg's Cerberus Capital Management had been selected as the new majority owner of Chrysler, the major US car manufacturer that in the 1980s became a symbol of renewed American industrial vigour. Chrysler has again fallen on hard times, along with the rest of the US auto industry, but this time the man with the plan is not the very public Lee Iacocca but the intensely private Stephen Feinberg, head of Cerberus. The Cerberus website reveals no information about Feinberg or any other Cerberus professional. The announcement of the $7.4 billion Chrysler investment includes a quote not from Feinberg but from new Cerberus chairman, John Snow, the former US treasury secretary. Although the firm has investments in differing sectors around the world, its highest profile moves have involved the auto industry. Feinberg reportedly talks up his bluecollar background in negotiations with these companies. During negotiations with General Motors for financing division GMAC, Feinberg reportedly expressed his interest in the deal as being partly patriotic. Cerberus has clearly won over its investors with strong returns and a talent for deals with hair on them – pension liabilities, hulking industrial assets, organised labour. Behind closed doors, Feinberg has proven a master of numbers but also good at deflecting Cerberus' rather scary profile. In an announcement that caught many in the private equity industry by surprise, the United Auto Workers came out in support of the Cerberus investment. A happy ending for Chrysler will dramatically improve private equity's public image around the world.

Paul Fletcher, ACTIS
Private equity explorer

Bangalore, Beijing, Cairo, Casablanca, Delhi, Johannesburg, Karachi, Kuala Lumpur, Lagos, Mumbai, Nairobi, Sao Paolo and Singapore: Actis, whose origins date back to 1984, calls itself an emerging private equity market specialist, and it has the office network to prove it. A London-based dedicated Africa team complements the line-up. Many private equity firms nowadays engage in investing in exotic locations. But few do it in as globe-spanning a fashion as the former UK government affiliate. Following an MBO led by senior partner Paul Fletcher in 2004, Actis has been building up its asset base to $3.4 billion. Emerging markets private equity may be a much more crowded space than even a few years ago. But Actis is still leading from the front when it comes to exporting private equity investment expertise to less developed economies.

The financial whiz

Like Tim Collins, Christopher Flowers' career as a private equity investor was super-sized by the success of Japan's Shinsei Bank. Flowers was co-architect of that deal, and of several other innovative deals since then sponsored by his firm, JC Flowers & Co. The former Goldman Sachs banker has reportedly finished raising a whopping $7 billion for his second private equity fund. One of the strengths of the Flowers network is that many of the firm's limited partners are also deal referrers and co-investors. The list of Flowers' breakthroughs is impressive. Before recently agreeing to purchase student loan provider Sallie Mae for $25 billion, JC Flowers was the first financial sponsor to buy a stake in a German government-owned Landesbank. The firm's bids for the assets out of bankrupt broker-dealer Refco and struggling Bisys highlighted the fact that Flowers is a true insider to the global financial industry.

Merchant banker to the world

From his perch as head of merchant banking within Goldman Sachs, Richard Friedman oversees one of the world's largest private equity platforms. The firm's Principal Investment Area recently closed a $20 billion fund; it has 120 investment professionals. If you add in the mezzanine debt, real estate and urban investment that fall under Friedman's merchant banking umbrella, it is hard to find someone who oversees a larger pool of private investment capital. Goldman discourages a star system, and so Friedman isn't nearly as visible as are the heads of the only two or three private equity firms larger than Goldman's. He joined the firm in 1981, was named partner in 1990 and entered the partnership pool in 1996. Friedman, who lives in New York, is the chairman of the firm's investment committee. Goldman's private equity reach extends around the world, most notably in Asia, where managing director Henry Cornell oversees activities.

Swiss heft

Established in 1996 by three former Goldman Sachs bankers – Alfred (Fredi) Gantner, Marcel Erni and Urs Wietlisbach – Swiss alternative asset manager Partners Group has grown from humble roots in the picturesque lakeside town of Zug to become a giant of the private equity industry. The firm has rolled out innovative investment programmes with breathtaking speed – never failing to capture the imagination of investors – while expanding its physical presence to London, New York and Singapore. Confirmation of the esteem in which the firm is held arrived in March last year by way of a highly successful €1.4 billion flotation – the first public listing of a private equity funds of funds manager. Among the chief beneficiaries were the co-founders, who between them retain a 45 percent stake in the business. Speak to industry peers and you will find all three held in high regard, but Gantner is viewed by many as the dynamic, forceful yin to Erni and Wietlisbach's understated, cerebral yang.

Supreme strategist

From the United Brotherhood of Carpenters to the California Public Employees Retirement System, private equity investment and advisory giant Hamilton Lane has amassed a client list as notable for its diversity as its sheer length (125 clients in total, representing $59 billion of advisory assets, according to the firm's website). Piloting the firm's strategic course is chief executive Mario Giannini. One of his more notable accomplishments in this capacity was selling 40 percent of Hamilton Lane's shares to a group that included the investment arm of Bill Gates, at the back end of 2003 in a move designed to secure the firm's long-term future.

Fundraiser extraordinaire

Mounir (“Moose”) Guen has assembled an impressive global network of clients since founding London-based placement agent MVision in 2001. To name just a few: European buyout funds EQT and Mercapital, European venture firm Sofinnova Partners, and emerging markets clients Brait in South Africa and CHAMP Private Equity in Australia. His approach appears to involve establishing a presence in every country and every segment. Says one London-based GP: “Moose is the hottest placement agent out there. GPs love him because he appears to raise funds effortlessly.”

Debt dynamo

As head of the operation, Hamilton has been fundamental to the global expansion of Royal Bank of Scotland Leveraged Finance. The bank, pre-eminent in the provision of debt to European buyouts, has recently established new footholds in the US and Japan. The Tokyo office opened in August 2005 with the recruitment of an eight-strong team from Shinsei Bank. Hamilton leads a deep bench of experienced industry pros providing innovative and diverse financing solutions. One London-based GP comments: “RBS is widely considered to be the top provider of leveraged finance to the private equity market. It has financed some very high profile deals and the team that Hamilton leads is first class.”

Full of surprises

A pioneer of securitised private equity deals in Europe, Hands is one of the most high-profile and celebrated players in the market. One London-based banker remarks: “Hands is something of an enfant terrible in the private equity world – he likes to do things a bit differently.” Terra Firma, the London-based buyout firm he founded in 2002, recently competed in the £11 billion battle for Alliance Boots. It ultimately lost out to a KKR-led consortium but its participation underlined Hands' audaciousness. His deals at Terra Firma have included the acquisition of the Odeon and UCI cinema chain in 2004 and of wine retailer Threshers in 2003. He previously worked at Goldman Sachs for 12 years and in 1994 founded a private equity business at Nomura International, known as Nomura Principal Finance. He subsequently led the spin-out of this business, which became Terra Firma in 2002. Terra Firma recently bought Pegasus Aviation Finance for $5.2 billion from Oaktree Capital. This was the firm's second biggest deal to date behind the $8.8 billion buyout of German property business Viterra in May 2005.

David Jackson, ISTITHMAR
Dynamic, opportunistic

Try getting hold of busy David Jackson – no easy task by any means. A former Lehman Brothers banker in New York City, Jackson made a career-transforming move when he went to Dubai as CEO of Istithmar, the globally active merchant banking arm of Dubai World. Jackson's approach is thoroughly opportunistic: an investment in Wall Street start-up Perella Weinberg, a commitment to Spice Air India, and big-ticket real estate deals in London and New York are all part of the Istithmar portfolio. The group sources investments both east and west of its Dubai home, and is the only Middle Eastern principal investment house to have opened an office in China. Istithmar, like Abraaj Capital and DIC, is a key catalyst of Middle Eastern capital into international private markets. The man who has moved the business into this position is David Jackson.

Nordic light

Under Jonsson's charismatic stewardship, Sweden's EQT has developed a multi-strategy private equity asset management business that has arguably seen it come to resemble more closely the alternative asset powerhouses of the US, such as Blackstone and Carlyle, than any of its peers in Europe. Jonsson co-founded EQT in 1994 and has since then overseen the firm's expansion both strategically, through different product lines, and geographically, through a presence in Asia. The firm now manages €10.5 billion in different types of funds out of its network of offices in northern Europe and Hong Kong. EQT's partners recently bought out a 36 percent stake in its management company for €31.2 million from Investor, the investment vehicle of Sweden's Wallenberg family and the biggest investor in EQT's funds.

From Sun to ethanol

It's hard to find someone still actively investing in Silicon Valley with more impeccable credentials than Vinod Khosla. He was a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, a partner in dominant venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and now, as head of Khosla Ventures, a major proponent of alternative energy, having personally invested heavily in biofuel companies, many of them based on ethanol technologies. In his current role, Khosla's influence on the industry is based much more on the attention he is bringing biofuels than on the raw dollars he has spent. Khosla's impact can already be seen – within the venture capital investment market, energy investments levels have surged. In an interview with environmental blog Grist, Khosla recently had this to say about his current investment strategy: “When I was at Kleiner Perkins in 2001 … I was looking at what you might call the ‘traditional’ venture energy sectors – fuel cells, hydrogen, all that. I began to realize that while fuel cells made sense as a stationary electricity source, hydrogen fuel cells made little sense for cars. That's when I started reading everything I could get my hands on about petroleum alternatives.” Khosla also believes his targeted sector will benefit society in other ways. On US oil dependence, he has bluntly asked: “Do we want to feed farmers or Mid-East terrorists? I mean, give me a break.”

Sees around corners

If his gig at Citi doesn't work out, Michael Klein might consider becoming an event planner. His annual, invitation-only private equity conference in Miami is widely regarded as the premier gathering in the industry, not because there's sunshine and golf, but because the content is so compelling. On centre stage is Klein's own analysis of the global private equity market – a slideshow presentation that has usually been a veritable preview of coming trends. Klein, the co-president of Citi Markets & Banking and vice chairman of Citibank International, built the firm's financial sponsor investment banking business into the powerhouse it is today. From this vantage point, Klein, who came to Citi by way of Salomon Brothers, has correctly predicted the further growth and institutionalisation of private equity. Says one admirer of Klein: “He's proven to be a visionary and has seen trends emerge before others.”

Vintage visionary

With some 100 people on the team, offices in New York, London, San Francisco, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Bangalore, and $24 billion under management, the Private Equity Group (PEG) at Goldman Sachs has grown into the heavyweight outfit you'd expect to be affiliated with the all-powerful investment bank. Joint co-heads Chris Kojima, Charles Baillie and Michael Miele are in charge. PEG is a bellwether LP, investing in funds globally on a primary and secondary basis. Its work in the latter field, where Kojima specialises, has been particularly impressive. PEG's Vintage Fund series stands out as a provider of creative capital in complex secondary situations, and with GS Vintage IV just having closed on $3 billion of fresh secondary money, Kojima and his colleagues have plenty of dry powder to work with.