Few private equity firms have grown as fast as Permira. A decade ago, the investment group had €2 billion ($2.9 billion) under management. It now has €22 billion. During the same period, its network of offices has increased from four to ten and the number of professionals in the business has almost trebled. In recognition of this transition from modest mid-market player to global giant, the firm has put in place a new management structure.
The changes see managing partner Damon Buffini step up to become chairman, with senior partners Tom Lister and Kurt Björklund promoted to co-managing partners. Björklund joined the firm in 1996 from Boston Consulting Group in Stockholm, becoming a partner in 2001 and head of the Nordic office in 2003. Lister, meanwhile, joined as a partner and head of the New York office in 2005, having been at US buyout firm Forstmann Little & Co for 13 years.
While the two co-managing partners will look after the business overall, a source at Permira said senior partners such as Charles Sherwood and Victoria Eng would focus on areas such as strategic direction, funding and business development, alongside Buffini.
Permira has been keen to stress that, for Buffini, ‘stepping up’ does not mean ‘stepping back’. Although relinquishing day-to-day control of the business to Björklund and Lister, he will remain chairman of the firm's investment committee. As the profile of the firm has grown, so too has that of Buffini. Notably, when the GMB union attacked Permira for alleged asset stripping at its portfolio company the AA, Buffini found himself subjected to unwanted personal scrutiny.
While the new structure reflects the growth the firm has made to date, it is also a platform for further growth in the future. Permira's most recent deals have been in Japan and China, and it is opening a Hong Kong office next year. There has also been speculation in the market that it is looking at the possibility of launching an operation in Russia.