A new Quest

This summer, it emerged that the European and US teams of placement agent Probitas Partners had split up. The US team will keep the original Probitas Partners name, while the European team has renamed itself as Quest Fund Placement.

The precise reason for the split remains unclear; both Quest and Probitas declined to comment.

Probitas, which was founded in 2001, has worked with more than 60 managers and raised more than $41 billion in capital since inception, according to its website. Most recently it supported the successful fundraise of Portobello Capital, which closed on its increased hard-cap of €375 million in August. Other big clients include The Riverside Company, who it helped to raise $235 million for its new Asian-Pacific fund; London-based TDR Capital, which collected €2 billion for its third buyout fund in March; and Alchemy Partners, which closed its oversubscribed third fund on €600 million in a first and final close in the same month.

It is unclear whether Probitas will hire another European team to replace the departed group – although according to its website, it has retained a European office.

Quest will be led by managing partner James Coleman, who joined Probitas in 2009 from Deloitte. It will focus primarily on raising capital for European mid-market funds as well as distressed credit, he tells Private Equity International – but it will also consider raising other types of fund should something interesting come up. “The idea is to focus on strategies that have worked well in the past, but also to be alive to new ideas,” he explains.

Coleman acknowledges that LP appetite for certain regions or strategies tends to come and go. But nonetheless, he remains quite bullish on the current appetite for European mid-market funds. “Through the crisis there has been extraordinary underinvestment in Europe, but the situation has now normalised. Europe should generally be part of LPs’ portfolios.”

Quest will be keen to attract new clients, but it also hopes to continue its existing European relationships, which include names like Montagu Private Equity, Consilium Private Equity and Invision. The firm currently has a team of 11, but apparently plans to expand to 14 in the coming months – all of whom will be based in London.

Quest expects that the majority of capital for European mid-market buyout funds will come from European LPs, according to Coleman. “The US LPs that have done European mid-market funds in the past is a [relatively] small group – about 120 LPs,” he says. However, Quest will also be targeting approximately 30 LPs from other parts of the world.

For now, Quest will be operating solely from London, although it may open a US office in years to come (it expects to be accredited by the US regulator in the coming weeks).

Quest joins a number of placement agents that have either spun out or become independent from their parent in recent years. Notable examples include Warren Hibbert and Fraser Van Rensburg, who founded London-based Asante Capital Group in 2010 after spinning out from MVision Private Equity Advisers. Since then, the firm has assisted a number of GPs with their fundraising, including energy-focused Blue Water Energy and South African-based Capitalworks.

There’s also London-based FirstPoint Equity, which was founded in 2011 by Alex Bance and Julian Pearson, both previously of J.P. Morgan Cazenove, whose clients include UK-based Dunedin, Nordic-focused Axcel and Swiss-based CGS Management.