Hess hands over day-to-day control at Altius

Altius Associates boss John Hess will focus on client management and corporate strategy as his three key lieutenants take over as joint-CEOs.

Altius Associates, a private equity advisory group, is rejigging its management team, with chief executive and co-founder John Hess moving to an executive chairman role and senior executives Brad Young, Jenny Fenton and Eric Warner taking over as co-CEOs.

Hess told Private Equity International the move was the culmination of a succession planning process that has been ongoing for the last couple of years. Promoting Young, Fenton and Warner  – who have sat alongside Hess on the executive management committee for the last 18 months – allowed Altius to transfer the day-to-day running of the firm to younger leaders while minimising disruption, he said. 

Fenton, who was a co-founder of Altius alongside Hess, was previously the firm's chief operating officer, while Young, who has been at Altius since 2004, was head of investments. Warner, who joined in 2011 from Mercer, has been heading up the firm's investor relations and business development efforts. The three will continue to run their existing functions under the new structure, but will also come together to make certain firm-wide decisions including bonus awards, carried interest allocations, senior hires and strategic changes.

Hess: moving

“We'll carry on much as we do now,” said Fenton. “But we've also worked out a formal structure for how we work together – which decisions people will be able to take individually, and which will be taken jointly. We'll each have an equal say in the management issues of the firm.”

According to Hess, Altius considered a number of possible succession outcomes. “It was a very open process – we were equally open to it being an internal or external candidate, an individual or a group … We wanted to find the answer that best suited Altius's culture and was least disruptive to the firm moving forward. So a number of candidates were interviewed – but then Eric, Jenny and Brad came together and proposed that they do it jointly.”

In his new role – which will be a full-time position – Hess intends to focus on client management and corporate strategy. “There was a wish among the senior management for me to free up more time to get involved in [those matters]. Clearly while I was doing the day-to-day CEO role, there was a limit to how much of that I could do.”

The management changes are effective as of the start of September.

Altius currently advises on about $23 billion in private equity and real assets and has offices in London, Richmond, Virginia and Singapore.