Ardian drops senior execs from key person group on ASF IX – updated

UK head Olivier Decannière and former US head Benoît Verbrugghe are among those not listed as key people on the secondaries giant's ASF IX fund, which is seeking $15bn.

Three senior executives who were part of Ardian‘s key person group for its previous flagship secondaries programme are not part of that group for the firm’s latest secondaries fund, Secondaries Investor has learned.

Senior managing directors Benoît Verbrugghe, Olivier Decannière and Ingmar Vallano are not listed as key persons on the French giant’s ASF IX fund, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

Verbrugghe, who became US head in 2010, is no longer a member of the firm’s executive committee and is no longer US head, according to Ardian’s website. Decannière, who is UK head, is also no longer listed as an executive committee member.

UK regulatory filings show Decannière resigned as a director from Ardian UK in March last year.

Both Verbrugghe and Decannière are understood to be standing back from future involvement in Ardian future funds.

Vallano left the firm in May last year, according to his LinkedIn profile.

A spokesperson for Ardian told Secondaries Investor: “How a company manages its own renewal and evolution is often a key component of its success. Since its inception 25 years ago, Ardian has ensured continuity and consistent delivery for clients and investors by constantly refreshing its offer, and this is no different here. The team continues to be blessed with deep expertise comprising many individuals with vast experience of the market.”

The changes to the key person group comes as Paris-headquartered Ardian seeks to raise $15 billion for ASF IX. Secondaries Investor reported in February that Ardian was in pre-marketing mode for the fund and was already speaking to LPs.

The development means that four out of the eight key persons listed on predecessor fund ASF VIII are not in the key person group for ASF IX. Vincent Gombault, head of fund of funds and private debt and who was also a key person on Fund VIII, left the firm in 2020, as Secondaries Investor reported.

ASF VIII raised $19 billion, including $5 billion of co-investment capital, in 2020. It remains the largest pot of capital dedicated to secondaries.

According to documents for ASF VIII seen by Secondaries Investor, a key person event is triggered if any three of the super key group – comprising Gombault, Verbrugghe, Decannière and founder and president Dominique Senequier – or any two of this super key group plus any two of Mark Benedetti and Vladimir Colas (US co-heads), Jan Philipp Schmitz (head of Germany and Asia, head of investor relations and customised solutions) and Vallano, cease to be “actively involved in the management of the fund of funds operations”.

In the event of a key person event, ASF VIII would be suspended from making new investments until suitable replacement key people are found at the discretion of the investor advisory board, the documents note.

ASF IX’s key person group includes Senequier, Benedetti, Colas, Schmitz and senior managing director Marie-Victoire Rosé, according to one of the sources.

Ardian made headlines when it raised ASF VIII. At $19 billion, the programme was the third-largest private equity pool of capital at the time, after Blackstone Capital Partners VIII and Apollo Investment Fund IX, according to PEI data.

Ardian has been speaking to investment bank JPMorgan about a potential IPO, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

A spokesperson for Ardian said that the firm had not mandated JPMorgan for an IPO, telling Secondaries Investor that while it has been reviewing “opportunities” as part of a regular three-year strategic review, “no bank has been mandated with a view to an IPO or any other kind of transaction”.

An IPO “could be an option, but is definitely not on our agenda” in the short-term, considering the market environment, the spokesperson added.

Bloomberg reported in November that Ardian was preparing for a potential listing.

JPMorgan declined to comment.

– Chris Witkowsky contributed to this report

– This report was updated to include a comment from Ardian in the seventh paragraph