Leonhard Fischer enters private equity

The high-profile German banker is joining Tim Collins to help run RHJ International, a listed private equity investment vehicle.

Leonhard Fischer, a former head of investment banking at Dresdner Bank and member of the management board of Dresdner’s parent Allianz, is joining RHJ International as co-chief executive officer.

Leonhard Fischer

Fischer is joining RHJI from Credit Suisse. He will run the Brussels-listed investment group along with Tim Collins, the maverick financier and private equity deal man who created RHJI in March 2005.
According to a spokesperson for RHJI, Collins and Fischer have been in talks about joining forces for the past year. “The two have complementary skill sets: Leonhard’s managerial background will help professionalise the organisation and free up Tim to be entrepreneurial and source deal opportunities,” the spokesperson said.

The inception of RHJI two years ago was widely seen as a highly innovative move by the unorthodox Collins. Formerly a $1.2 billion (€900 million) buyout fund operating in Japan and managed by Collins’ US-based private equity firm Ripplewood Holdings, the entity went public on the Euronext stock exchange in Belgium in an early conversion of a bundle of private equity assets into a permanent capital vehicle.        

According to a press release, RHJI owns controlling ownership stakes in six companies with aggregate revenues of some €4 billion and has a market capitalisation of €1.3 billion. The group has €500 million of cash currently available for new investments.

Collins made his name and fortune as the architect of a number of highly profitable investments in the financial services sector. The most famous of Ripplewood’s deals was the vastly profitable turnaround of Shinzei, a Japanese bank, which started in 2000. 

Fischer’s most recent role was as chief executive officer of Credit Suisse for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In June 2006, he led the sale of Winterthur, the bank’s insurance unit, to French rival AXA for $10.4 billion.

In a press release, Collins said Fischer’s arrival would enable the group to do “more in Europe”. Fischer said he and Collins had a shared vision of creating long-term value for shareholders.

Stock options in RHIJ are an important component of Fischer’s compensation, the spokesperson said, although he has not acquired any equity in the company outright.

Fischer will not be involved in managing Ripplewood Holdings.