Like many captive investment platforms, the private equity business of German insurance giant Allianz has had its years of Sturm und Drang.
Founded in 1998 and led for many years by the charismatic former Goldman Sachs executive Thomas Pütter, Allianz Capital Partners was once best known for its swashbuckling direct investing activities in the LBO market. Leading roles in high-profile deals, including for instance the buyouts of aircraft maker Fairchild Dornier (with Clayton Dubilier & Rice) and Tank & Rast (motorway service stations, with Apax Partners), weren’t uncommon in the early days. Nowadays direct investing is still a part of the remit, but on a smaller scale, and exclusively in the infrastructure and renewable energy markets.
Indirect investing started in 1996, and there was a time when a distinct business unit known as Allianz Private Equity Partners (APEP) invested third-party capital in private equity funds. Nowadays the APEP moniker is no longer in use, and the private funds arm invests on behalf of just one client: Allianz Group.
A number of figureheads came and went. One influential early shaper of the funds portfolio was Wanching Ang, who retired from full-time investing in 2007 after nearly a decade at the helm. Jonny Maxwell, an effervescent Scot who pre-viously had run the private funds business of another European insurer, Standard Life, spent a mere two years in Munich, before departing in 2009 in the wake of a restructuring. Pütter himself left the business a year later, in a move that market insiders at the time attributed to disillusionment with his employer’s changing appetite for private equity.
All told, the story of ‘private equity and Allianz’ has played out rather differently to that of some of its European peers. Take AXA. Like the Germans, the French group first entered the asset class in the 1990s. Driven by the entrepreneurial energy of its commander-in-chief Dominique Senequier, it pushed hard for many years to build a multi-strategy asset management business. AXA Private Equity eventually grew into a $47 billion alternative investment house – a business so large and so ferocious in its appetite for asset-gathering that last year’s eventual spin-out and rebranding into the independent entity now known as Ardian was all but inevitable.
Allianz’s private equity-focused business line, on the other hand, has evolved into a much less aggressive – and ostensibly less ambitious – player in private markets, with an exclusive focus on investing balance sheet capital and operating largely away from the limelight. There are currently no plans to start another fund of funds business.