TOUGH GIG

The resignation of BVCA chief executive Peter Linthwaite, forced to carry the can by his superiors after the UK industry body's heavily-criticised performance at the already infamous Treasury Select Committee meeting at the House of Commons on June 12, has thrown up at least one interesting corollary – the return of previous incumbent John Mackie, albeit in a temporary capacity.

Mackie held the BVCA chief executive job between 2000 and 2005, before handing over the reins to Linthwaite. He said at the time of his resignation: “It is time to bring in somebody new to take the BVCA to its next phase of development.” Ironically, he returns at a time when the BVCA is forced to once again change the way it operates.

Even before Linthwaite tendered his resignation on June 14, chairman Wol Kolade told our sister website PEO: “The BVCA cannot continue in its current form. We need to be better equipped. We need to set the agenda, not react to it and build something interesting to deliver it. Maybe with a different chief executive, because the association is heading into different waters than when Peter joined. We cannot be precious.”

Mackie is planning to stay only as long as it takes for the BVCA to recruit a new chief executive. However, this may be easier said than done, as arguments continue over whether the BVCA can continue to represent the various distinct communities that make up the UK private equity industry.

The precedents suggest otherwise: in the US, the large buyout firms have already branched out to form their own trade body, the Private Equity Council. Pan-European trade body EVCA has announced the creation of separate platforms to represent venture, mid-market buyout firms and megafunds.

Commenting on the challenge facing the BVCA, many UK industry practitioners have described the CEO vacancy as a “poison chalice”.

The search for a suitable candidate comes at a critical time for UK private equity, which is facing a hitherto unseen level of opposition from politicians, unions and the media. Until he or she is found, the BVCA will be hoping that Mackie can plot a safe course through the choppy waters ahead.

OXFORD HIRES WELLCOME'S ROBERTSON
Sandra Robertson, a former senior investment professional at the Wellcome Trust and one of Britain's most highly regarded private equity investors, has moved to Oxford University as its first chief investment officer. Robertson will oversee the university's central endowment, which is currently worth about £900 million (€1.3 billion, $1.8 billion) – small compared with some US universities. Another £2.7 billion of endowment funds are managed independently by Oxford's individual colleges. Oxford is looking to emulate the investment strategies of US universities like Yale and Harvard which have invested heavily in private equity and other alternative asset classes. Wellcome Trust director Mark Walport said: “UK universities have lagged far behind the US counterparts in the size and quality of management of endowments. It is important that UK universities enhance endowments as an additional funding source.”

BENEDICKT BRENNINKMEIJER RETURNS TO PE
CAM Private Equity, a European private equity fund of funds, has established a Swiss subsidiary in Zurich. It has appointed Benedickt Brenninkmeijer to manage the business. Brenninkmeijer was formerly CEO of shaPE Capital, a Zurich-listed private equity fund of funds, from 2002 to 2005. He said: “CAM is the leading private equity fund of funds in Germany – and the biggest fund of funds in Europe with growth potential. I thought this would be a good platform to be entrepreneurial and dynamic.” CAM has €2.5 billion ($3.4 billion) under management with offices in Munich, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Zurich and the US. The firm recently teamed up with New York-based Newmarket Partners to launch a $400 million fund of funds for investments in emerging markets.

ADVENT OPENS IN PRAGUE
Global mid-market investor Advent International, which already has offices in Budapest, Bucharest and Warsaw, has opened an additional eastern European office in Prague. Chris Mruck will be in charge. Mruck has been at Advent since 1997 and has been involved in several of its most high profile central European deals, including the landmark sale of Bulgarian telecoms company BTC to AIG Capital Partners for €1 billion ($1.3 billion). Advent has raised $10 billion in private equity capital and completed more than 200 deals since its inception in 1984.

VISION POACHES HAWKINS FROM PALAMON
UK direct secondaries specialist Vision Capital has recruited Andrew Hawkins from mid-market buyout firm Palamon Capital Partners as a managing director. Hawkins will work alongside current managing director Scott Greenalgh and report directly to founder and chief executive Julian Mash. While at Palamon, Hawkins led the firm's investment in Cambridge Education Group, a UK English language teaching company, of €15 million. Vision is currently investing a €350 million fund, with up to another €650 million available in parallel structures.

ACTIVA STRENGTHENS INVESTMENT TEAM
Julien Di Marco has joined Activa Capital, a Paris-based buyout firm, as an investment analyst. Di Marco was previously at Ernst & Young in the transaction services and corporate restructuring department. For Activa, it is the latest of several appointments by the firm. Thierry Célestin was recently brought in from Cinven to become a partner at Activa and Christophe Parier was promoted from investment director to partner. Activa recently raised €315 million ($422 million) for its latest fund in less than three months. On the deal front, the firm recently merged French jam manufacturer Materne with portfolio company Mont Blanc, a cream dessert business.

BROWN HIRES BUFFINI
UK Chancellor of the Exchequer and prime minister in waiting Gordon Brown has promised his continued support for the City of London. In his annual speech to the City, Brown said he was committed to maintaining a competitive tax regime and would provide greater certainty on tax matters when it was needed most. Brown also spoke about the importance of education in ensuring the UK's future success and revealed the appointment of Damon Buffini, managing partner of Permira, to the National Council for Educational Excellence. The Council plans to bring together leaders in business, higher education, and the voluntary sector, alongside school heads, teachers and parents.