Andrew Géczy is, by his own admission, rarely impressed. But in Guy Hands, the founder of Terra Firma, Géczy found someone he considered truly exceptional.
“Normally I have read every of every briefing document before a meeting and thought about every angle to a situation,” he tells Private Equity International. “Guy is the first person I have met who has come up with an angle that I missed.” Géczy was so impressed with Hands’s intellect that he ended up telling his wife about it that night.
Hands’s enquiring mind, along with his mission to reshape Terra Firma as something more balanced than a one-man-show, persuaded the former head of executive banking at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group to join the firm last year. In doing so he become the third figure of a leadership trio, which comprises him, Hands and retail veteran Justin King as head of the firm’s portfolio. As the CEO, Géczy’s role is to make the financing and M&A process “tighter”, handle the day-to-day operations of the firm and “and think about how we raise capital better”.
With the firm now seeking to raise its first commingled buyout fund since 2006, Géczy will have his work cut out. Since its large cross-fund investment in music group EMI led to a high-profile investment loss, the firm has not raised a successor to its €5.4 billion 2006 fund.
The former investment banker is leading the firm’s six-strong investor relations team. He declined to discuss fundraising, but told PEI he is confident in the team, which successfully raised £550 million (€597.7 million; $704.9 million) towards the £4 billion refinancing of UK housing platform Annington Group earlier this year.
The firm has no need for placement agents, he says. “People came to us to offer to help us raise the money: all the banks wanted us to engage them […] and we frankly didn’t think we needed their help,” he says of the Annington capital raising. “I got on a plane. I led that. We flew around, we knew the investors, we knew the contacts.”
Géczy founded advisory firm Manresa Partners before moving to Lloyds Banking Group as chief executive of wholesale banking and markets in 2009. He observed the rise of Terra Firma through the early 2000s from his post as global head of structured corporate finance at Citi.
Since Géczy arrived as CEO, other senior figures have departed, namely managing director Peter Miholich and former head of Nordic investments Jyrki Lee-Korhonen. Géczy says: “Whenever you get a new CEO, you make an assessment of the team on the field: that’s what new CEOs do. We’re trying to build something for the future, and you want people who want to be here for the next 10 years. You don’t want people who want to be here for the next five years.”
The next 10 years for Terra Firma will be defined by its ability to persuade investors to once again trust a significant amount of capital with the firm. Géczy’s role should prove pivotal.