LBO types like to win, and for some, deal making alone just isn't enough to satisfy their competitive streaks. Looking for relief, they turn to sports.
Football for instance. In London, a syndicate of private equity firms make up the Private Equity All Stars, a team featuring footballing talent from Apax, Bain, Candover, Permira and Texas Pacific that regularly turns out for good causes.
In May, the All Stars won a thrilling 10-8 victory over the Out-of-Towners at Chelsea Football Club's Stamford Bridge stadium in West London. Hendrik Kraft of Apax scored half his side's goals, including a bold delivery from the half way line.
The All Stars were making their second appearance at Stamford Bridge, and helped raise £60,000 to pay for three “Sunshine” coaches for the Variety Club children's charity. For the team's sweeper, Damon Buffini of Permira, playing for the All Stars provides an opportunity for poignant reflection on an alternative career that might have been.
Prior to becoming a serious private equity player, Buffini was a promising young striker. Having looked briefly at turning pro as a youngster, Buffini played for Cambridge University before moving to Harvard Business School, where he would occasionally sneak out of studies to practice free kicks.
Rumour has it that while at Harvard, he formed a useful striking partnership with classmate Harald Mix, who went on to find investment fame with Industri Kapital and more recently with his own buyout firm, Altor Equity Partners. Although the two have stayed in touch, they rarely get the opportunity to play together these days, given private equity's capacity to be the most demanding of footballers' wives.
Fortunately, Buffini has found a new soccer buddy in Permira partner Graham Wrigley, who is a fellow member, instigator and captain of the All Stars. And, following the appearance of Peter Beardsley as a halftime substitute for the All Stars at Stamford Bridge last month, they and their team mates can now claim to have played alongside a former England international.
It's the first loss that I have had in a company – the first real loss. I am still sad about it. I am still unhappy about it. You know, I took each of these investments very seriously. I took my relationship with all my limited partners very seriously. I'm very, very – I'm very unhappy about it.
Ted Forstmann, head of New York buyout firm Forstmann Little, testifying before a jury in Connecticut, on his feelings about big telecom losses his firm has suffered. Forstmann Little is being sued by the state's treasurer, an LP, for breach of fiduciary duty.
You're really asking the wrong person.
Ted Forstmann in the same hearing, answering the question, “What is a junk bond?” Asked about the structure of one of his firm's transactions, Forstmann reportedly responded: “Frankly, this is kind of over my head.”
I've never, ever, ever changed a [portfolio company] manager and then said, “Oh God – did that too early.”
Ian Armitage, CEO of European mid-market investor HgCapital, speaking at the 2004 European Private Equity COOs and CFOs Forum in London.