Side Letter: Mekong’s Asia haul, Ardian’s ‘Marmite’ steps down

The man behind Ardian's meteoric rise is on the move. Plus: Vietnam's Mekong has doubled its firepower and BlackRock slashes its long-term fund target. Here's today's brief, for our valued subscribers only.

He said it

“He also taught me that private equity was all about the numbers and that it’s okay to make a mistake as long as you don’t make the same one again.”

Orlando Bravo, co-founder of tech specialist Thoma Bravo, shares lessons learned from PE legend and his mentor Carl Thoma in shaping the firm’s culture and strategy. Read more on sister title Buyouts (registration or subscription required).

Just happened

French de-connection
Vincent Gombault, the man largely credited with helping grow Ardian’s secondaries operations into the powerhouse it is today, has stepped down from his role. Gombault (pictured), a 22-year veteran of the Paris-headquartered firm, will join the firm’s supervisory committee while a management committee chaired by president Dominique Senequier will take over responsibility for the firm’s $55 billion fund of funds programme. Under Gombault’s watch, Ardian became an investment management giant and the largest raiser of secondaries capital, with the strategy accounting for almost half the firm’s $103 billion in AUM today.

It’s unclear why Gombault is stepping down from his role. Once source suggests it’s simply a matter of timing, while other market sources tell Side Letter there was more at play. “He’s not your average manager,” says a banker who has worked with him, describing him as tense, a genius and “a bit like Marmite – you either love him or hate him”. Gombault is understood to have been a pioneer of the use of leverage in the LP secondaries market – a practice that has become standard fare. Read our 2017 interview with Gombault here.

A good morning in Vietnam
Vietnam’s Mekong Capital has more than doubled its investment firepower with its latest flagship fund. The firm held the final close on Mekong Enterprise Fund IV on $246 million on Monday, well over the $112 million raised for its 2015-vintage predecessor, according to a statement. About 44 percent of capital was raised from new LPs, the majority of which were based in Asia, founder Chris Freund tells Private Equity International. This marks a “substantial shift” from previous fundraises, which involved a greater number of US investors.

Mekong’s fundraise is timely. Although the country has experienced a private equity feeding frenzy in recent years, global travel bans in the pandemic have afforded local players some respite from this dynamic, as we explore in our latest emerging markets special. More on that next week.


BlackRock tempers expectations
BlackRock has cut the target of its long-term fund by at least half, according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall). BlackRock Long Term Private Capital, which launched in 2018, reportedly missed internal fundraising deadlines and had to seek an extension from existing investors. It has now lowered its aspirations from $12 billion to between $4 billion and $6 billion, having raised only $3.4 billion by the end of 2020.

In December 2019, the fund’s manager Mark Wiseman was ousted from the firm for failing to disclose a workplace relationship. Limited partners in the fund include Minnesota State Board of Investment, which invested $1 billion.

Dig deeper

Institution: Fubon Life Insurance Company
Headquarters: Taipei, Taiwan
AUM: NT$4.79 trillion

Fubon Life Insurance has confirmed a $65 million commitment to Coller International Partners VIII. The fund is managed by Coller Capital.

Fubon Life Insurance Company’s recent private equity commitments have been to funds that focus on secondaries and buyout strategies across several regions.

For more information on Fubon Life Insurance, as well as more than 5,900 other institutions, check out the PEI database.

Today’s letter was prepared by Alex Lynn with Adam Le, Rod James and Carmela Mendoza.

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