SAC hires private equity team(2)

Hedge fund behemoth SAC Capital is preparing to launch an Asia-focused private equity investment platform under the direction of three professionals who worked together at Ripplewood, according to market sources.

One of the largest hedge fund managers in the world is building a team of private equity professionals with global investment experience, according to a report and market sources.

Stamford, Connecticut-based SAC Capital has brought on board Peter Berger, who most recently worked for RHJ International, a publicly traded investment holding affiliate of New York-based Ripplewood Holdings.

Spokespersons for Ripplewood and SAC Capital declined to comment.

According to a Reuters report, Berger and two former colleagues, Frank Baker and Jeffrey Hendren, will spearhead a private equity programme for SAC, founded by Steven A. Cohen.

A former Ripplewood professional knowledgeable about the situation confirmed that Berger, Baker and Hendren have been tapped to run a private equity business for SAC.

A separate source said the three will not raise a private equity fund, but rather invest capital from SAC’s roughly $12 billion in assets under management. The private equity team will mostly focus on Japan and Asia, but will make opportunistic investments in Europe and the US, as well.

In September, RHJ International, which is traded on the Brussels Euronext exchange, issued a press release stating that Hendren had resigned from the company’s board, and that Baker and Berger had also tendered resignations. RHJ has extensive investment in Japan as well as a major investment in an Egyptian bank. The company began life as a traditional private equity limited partnership, but two years ago it was converted into a holding company and taken public.

SAC Capital built itself up on a strategy of rapid-fire trading. But like many other hedge funds, SAC is now diversifying into less liquid investment strategies. Last April, SAC hired Blackstone mezzanine professional Mark Gudis to create a private debt investment platform.

In 2005, Ripplewood managing director Ian Snow left to co-found a new private equity firm, New York-based SPG Partners.