Side Letter: Ardian’s leadership update; Blackstone wants EU; Apax’s small-cap successor

Details on who's leading the world's largest secondaries firm's European business. Plus: Blackstone is targeting wealthy Europeans with a new vehicle just as the tussle for talent heats up industry-wide; and France's Apax is plotting the launch of its next small-cap fund. Here's today's brief, for our valued subscribers only.

Just happened

Schmitz and Rozé: Responsible for Europe and Asia secondaries & primaries (Source: Ardian)

Ardian update
Earlier this year Side Letter and affiliate title Secondaries Investor reported on some key person changes at Ardian, which saw the firm drop its UK head, and its former US head, from the key person group on its latest flagship secondaries fund. Side Letter caught up with two executives from Ardian this week – Frankfurt-based Jan Philipp Schmitz and Paris-based Marie-Victoire Rozé (pictured) – to get the latest on who’s leading what at the investment giant. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Schmitz and Rozé have taken over as co-leads of Europe and Asia for the firm’s fund of funds business, which is now called secondaries & primaries.
  • Michael Ferragamo, Ardian’s head of global compliance, has been made head of Ardian UK.
  • These three appointments were made more than a year ago and were communicated to LPs, we’re told – though you wouldn’t know it by looking at Ardian’s website, which doesn’t appear to mention these updated responsibilities.
  • The wider Ardian secondaries team now comprises more than 110 investment professionals.
  • The firm raised $5.25 billion for its ASF VIII infrastructure fund in April, the largest such vehicle to date. While Schmitz and Rozé declined to comment on current fundraisings, a source familiar with the firm tells Side Letter that Ardian is expecting a first close on its ASF IX private equity secondaries fund in the autumn on more than $10 billion (it is seeking $15 billion, PEI data shows).

Wealthy individuals, BX wants EU
Blackstone has launched an open-end PE vehicle targeting individual investors in Europe, per a report from Citywire. Blackstone Private Equity Strategies Fund SICAV is expected to have ‘substantially similar investment objectives and strategies’ to funds under BXPE, an investment programme designed to offer wealthy individuals access to Blackstone’s PE platform.  According to a May 2022 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, BXPE will generally seek to invest at least 80 percent of its net asset value in PE investments and the remainder in debt and other securities.

Blackstone has doubled the number of staff in its European private wealth unit in the last six months, bringing global headcount to more than 200, PEI reported in March. Europe’s retail market is a “real opportunity” for the firm over time, president and chief operating officer Jon Gray said during an earnings call in January. However, he noted that different regulations on wealth management make it challenging to operate. “[EU countries] are not all synchronised. Obviously, there are different languages as well. And you have much less consolidation generally amongst distributors, wealth managers.” Hence, Side Letter assumes, the need for such an increase in headcount.

Speaking of private wealth talent…
With firms such as Blackstone snapping up so many experts, it’s little surprise to learn there’s a tussle for talent underway in the private wealth universe. That’s according to new research by Jensen Partners, which found that the top five managers in this arena have added at least 122 employees to their private wealth teams so far in 2022. Sasha Jensen, the research firm’s founder and chief executive, told the The Wall Street Journal that it’s a “talent-starved market”.

A competitive hiring landscape doesn’t seem to be holding firms back. In October, Blackstone’s global head of private wealth solutions, Joan Solotar, said the firm was planning to double its private wealth team from what was then 160 professionals by the end of 2022 (in other words, we can probably expect even more hires from Blackstone this year, despite its recent Europe boost). Just last week, BNP Paribas Private Wealth Management told PEI it is launching a revamped digital platform for its individual clients this month in order to streamline the investment process.

In the past, high-net-worth investors were seen by PE as difficult to access at any meaningful scale. Now, as LPs find themselves grappling with asset allocations and platforms such as iCapital and Moonfare streamline the process, GPs are finding the opportunity harder to ignore. As a consequence, the pool of wealth executives with private markets experience is likely to be comparatively limited – firms will have to find ways to convince this select few that their proposition is most compelling.


Apax’s development designs
France’s Apax Partners is laying the groundwork for its sophomore small-cap fund and has appointed a new co-head to oversee the strategy. The firm will seek €350 million for Development Fund II when it launches in H2, according to a Thursday statement. Its predecessor collected €255 million against a €225 million target in 2019 and has backed seven companies to date. Existing partner Isabelle Hermetet has been given the nod to join Caroline Rémus as co-head of the development unit. Hermetet spent 19 years at French growth firm EPF until its acquisition by Apax in 2017.

a16z x2
Although VC managers are not immune to the fundraising crunch facing their PE counterparts, a handful of elite names appear to be raising with ease. Andreessen Horowitz – an early investor in Facebook, Airbnb and several other success stories – is raising an add-on fund to invest alongside its eighth flagship, according to our colleagues at Venture Capital Journal (registration required). The Menlo Park-headquartered firm is raising an undisclosed amount for the vehicle, which will supplement the $2.5 billion gathered for Fund VIII as of January. This isn’t a16z’s first add-on fund: it collected at least $31.5 million shortly after closing its 2020-vintage Fund VII.

The news comes a day after reports that Sequoia China had collected $9 billion across four funds mainly targeting technology and healthcare (this is in spite of uncertain LP appetites for the market after last year’s regulatory crackdown). In an asset class defined by the wide spread of returns between the best funds and the rest, it is little surprise to see LPs clamouring for access to big names.

Today’s letter was prepared by Alex Lynn with Adam LeRod JamesCarmela Mendoza and Helen de Beer