First Round: The Dirty (Dishes) Dozen

In March, the great and good of UK private equity descended on the Victoria & Albert Museum for the valedictory fundraising dinner of the Private Equity Foundation, an industry-backed group that supports and develops youth charities. As ever, the highlight was the blind auction, where guests bid generously for prizes donated by various buyout firms and managers.

A week in Tuscany (courtesy of Guy Hands; First Round isn’t sure whether he was planning to tag along) and an afternoon at the British Grand Prix (courtesy of CVC; First Round is assuming tag-along rights) both attracted a lot of interest. But unquestionably the biggest hit – somewhat to First Round’s surprise – was a dinner cooked by 12 of the leading women in private equity. This sparked a ferocious bidding war, eventually selling for a cool £12,000.

Less nuanced magazine intro sections may get het up about this being a bit, well, sexist. But First Round not only embraces the knowing postmodernism of the idea; it also remembers that this time last year, some of PEF’s biggest (male) supporters – including the likes of KKR’s Johannes Huth and Blackstone’s Joe Barratta – auctioned their services as car-washers for a year. Of course, the 12 ladies concerned will be far too polite to remind Huth and co that they managed to raise a whole 50 percent more – just for one night of their company.

All told, PEF managed to raise more than £1 million during the evening, for the second successive year – not a bad way to mark its last big shindig as an independent entity. It’s currently in the process of merging with Impetus Trust, another venture philanthropy group, with the avowed intention of building greater scale.

Although presumably there’ll be cost savings too. Certainly the name of the merged group (Impetus – The Private Equity Foundation) suggests they haven’t been wasting any money on branding consultants.