First Reserve taps GE pro for infrastructure team

Phil Burkhardt joined the firm as an asset manager, bringing the total number of members on its energy infrastructure team to 11. First Reserve infrastructure head Mark Florian expects the team to grow to 14 by year’s end as the firm goes about ‘building out some really good investments’.

First Reserve Corporation has hired a General Electric veteran to join its infrastructure team as the energy-focused private equity firm ramps up its examination of investment opportunities in the energy infrastructure space.

Phil Burkhardt joined the firm 5 April as an asset manager for on the infrastructure team. He had previously spent 30 years at General Electric (GE) developing and operating the conglomerate’s energy investments, according to biography. The investments included both conventional fossil fuel-based power generation facilities as well as renewable energy assets such as wind power.

“That’s one of the things Phil brings that we really like,” said Mark Florian, head of First Reserve’s infrastructure team. “We see ourselves focused on both [investments] and . . . he brings [experience in] both.”

Phil Burkhardt

Burkhardt said he started focusing on renewable generation in the early 2000s. Earlier in his career, he had overseen the development of more traditional power sources of energy, including fossil-fuel based power plants in Asia. He said he had just retired from GE when First Reserve, wrapping up a six-month search for an asset manager, tapped him for the job.

In that capacity he will be responsible for due diligence and analysis of new investments, as well managing any portfolio companies First Reserve acquires for its infrastructure portfolio, Florian said.

Burkhardt believes that even though infrastructure assets are often perceived as being less management intensive than other types of businesses, there is still an opportunity to improve their performance through active management, especially in power assets.

“It’s crucial that as you  . . . optimize performance of them both financially and mechanically so that you don’t let things go that you could fix,” he said.

Burkhardt’s appointment comes as First Reserve prepares to make its first investments in the energy infrastructure space. Florian said the firm is currently examining an investment opportunity in a pipeline asset as well as a few different power generation businesses. Over the next six to nine months, Florian said, First Reserve is going to be “building out some really good investments” in the space.

The firm is also going to continue hiring more people for its infrastructure team, which currently stands at 11 investment professionals.

“We intend to have that be 14 or more by the end of the year and really where we’re focused on adding people is mid-to-senior level people that can bring particular sector expertise,” Florian said.