PAI chief to step down in 2015

The succession plans, laid out as PAI raises a €3bn fund, will see the firm’s investment head take on the top role halfway through the vehicle’s investment period.

Lionel Zinsou, chief executive of Paris-based PAI Partners, is to quit in 2015, according to a source. 

Aged 57, Zinsou is to be succeeded by Michel Paris, the firm’s chief investment officer. He will retain an active role until officially retiring in 2017, the source said. He is expected join the firm’s supervisory board upon stepping down. 

The succession plans had been known to LPs for several months, according to the source. As per PAI’s by-laws, which call for retirement at the age of 63, Zinsou will reach compulsory retirement in 2017.

This will coincide with the end of PAI VI’s investment period, which PAI is raising with a target of €3 billion. Having so far collected around €600 million for the vehicle, the firm is now understood to be aiming for a €1 billion 'dry close' this summer, meaning that funds collected until then will be put aside until it decides to deploy them. 

Lionel Zinsou

PAI declined to comment on the news, which was first reported in the Financial Times.

Zinsou, a former general partner at lender Rothschild & Cie, joined PAI in 2008. He took the role of chief executive in 2009, after an internal dispute provoked the departure of the firm’s two most senior managers, Dominique Mégret and Bertrand Meunier. 

The management reshuffle, which triggered a key-man clause, led investors to reduce PAI’s Fund V to €2.7 billion in December that year. Closed in 2008, the vehicle had an original size of €5.4 billion. 

The firm has since then strived to return cash to investors, in a bid to shore up its profile in anticipation of further fundraising. It has realised close to €5 billion over the last two years, and lined up a number of high-profile exits.These have included French dairy group Yoplait, on which it generated a 10x return through a €1.2 billion sale to General Mills in 2011, as well as Bioscience business Chr Hansen, which it fully exited last year for a 4x return. 

Its most recent exit was FTE Automobile – the last investment of Fund III – which it sold to Bain Capital last month. This brought the overall performance of the 12 year-old vehicle to 3.3x.