In memoriam: Nigel Doughty

Following the tragic and unexpected death of Nigel Doughty in early February, tributes have poured in from across the UK private equity community. 

Philip Buscombe, executive chairman of Lyceum Capital, spoke warmly to Private Equity International about Doughty’s impact on the industry, and on his own firm. “I first met Nigel when he was at Standard Chartered in the late 80’s lending to buyouts; he was one of the first to make the journey from debt to equity,” Buscombe said.  

“He gave us some great advice when we started Lyceum as we shared a number of investors. He was a pioneer of the UK private equity industry and wasn’t afraid to take Doughty Hanson into new businesses and new markets. He had real charm and a unique sense of humour that will be greatly missed,” he added.  

Doughty was a founding member of Standard Chartered Bank’s buyout unit in 1984, where he met Dick Hanson. In 1990, the pair established CWB Partners, a private equity joint venture between Standard Chartered and Westdeutsche Landesbank. The pair then span out of CWB to form Doughty Hanson as an independent group, which went on to become a key part of the UK private equity landscape. He was chairman of all the firm’s private equity, real estate and technology venture funds. 

Ian Armitage, chairman of HgCapital, said: “Together with Dick, he built a fine firm, in their own way. They really pioneered the larger buyout in Germany, and were way ahead of others. They made it a huge success and left a legacy of better-run German companies. So far from being a locust, he was a bee, pollinating and allowing plants to bear fruit.” 

Doughty has been at the forefront of efforts to promote responsible investing within the industry. In 2006, he made a personal endowment at Cranfield School of Management to establish the Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility, and he worked tirelessly to make his firm one of the most proactive in the industry on ESG-related matters. 

British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association chief executive Mark Florman said in a statement: “Nigel Doughty was one of the greats of British private equity and the industry owes him a huge debt for the contribution he made over more than 25 years, both to the industry in Europe and to the many businesses that the firm backed and helped build. 

Terra Firma’s Guy Hands was similarly complimentary, telling PEI: “When I entered the PE industry I knew no-one and Nigel was one of the first people to welcome me into it.  He was always extremely friendly, straightforward, open and a delight to deal with. I appreciated enormously the time he gave in helping me understand the industry. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him”. 

Richard Anton, BVCA chairman and a partner at Amadeus Capital, said: “Nigel’s impact on the industry has been immeasurable. It is not just in the world of finance that Nigel will be remembered, but also for his contributions to the worlds of sport, politics and charity. A generous man of wide-ranging interests, he will be missed by all those who knew him.”

Doughty was a regular donor to the UK’s Labour Party, and served as the party’s assistant treasurer. He was also  a devoted fan of Nottingham Forest, rescuing the football club from insolvency in 1999 by acquiring it for £11 million (€13 million; $17 million). He served as its chairman for more than a decade until October last year, reportedly investing more than £100 million of his personal wealth in the club over the years. 

As Armitage observed: “Nigel is now up there with [legendary Forest football manager] Brian Clough – the perfect owner-manager combination.”