Halley family bets big on Vandevelde

Change Capital, the private equity shop headed by Luc Vandevelde, has secured a E300m cornerstone investment from the Halley family, which has set aside another E700m for co-investment.

Change Capital Partners, the start-up private equity business launched by Marks and Spencer chairman Luc Vandevelde, has announced it has access to E1bn of equity capital to invest in private equity transactions.

Change Capital said yesterday the Halley family, which is the largest shareholder in the Carrefour retailing group, has set aside E700m for co-investment with the firm's first-time retail and consumer sector focused private equity fund. This is in addition to the E300m that the family has already committed to the fund as a cornerstone investment.

It is the second time this year that a UK-based debut private equity fund draws heavily on the resources of a wealthy and well-known family. In January, Englefield Capital, the private equity house set up last year by former Warburg Pincus partner Dominic Shorthouse, closed a buyout fund at E660m on the back of a E495m commitment from Bregal, a Swiss-based vehicle controlled by the Brenninkmeijer family.

Partnering with a large family investor capable of writing big checks is attractive for first-time private equity fundraisers as a means of avoiding a protracted and, in the current market environement, possibly unsuccessful fundraising effort.

An additional attraction is the often substantial network of industry contracts that a large and well-connected industrial family can bring to the party. Vandevelde and the Halleys are betting that between them they have enough connections particularly in European retail to give them a competitive advantage over other private equity managers competing in the sector.   

Vandevelde's links to the Halley family date back to his time at French retailer Promodes, where he was chief operating officer from 1995 to 1999. Promodes was acquired by Carrefour in 1999, giving the family an eleven per cent stake in the major French retailer.

Vandevelde has reduced his role at M&S to a part time basis to set up
Change Partners with three other business partners, Steven Petrow, a former managing director of Bain Capital, Frederick Huftkens, the founder of Hufkens Asset Management and private equity investor Philip Renaud. Vandevelde will devote 40 per cent of his time to the venture.

Based in the UK, Change Capital will focus on middle market deals up to E150m in value. The private equity firm is thought to be currently reviewing ten opportunities, mainly in the UK and France.