Who’s who in the battle for SVG

As the drama over the London-listed private equity vehicle unfolds, PEI sizes up the dramatis personae.

As the drama over the London-listed private equity vehicle unfolds, PEI sizes up the dramatis personae.

It began on 12 September with a $1.3 billion hostile bid by HarbourVest Partners. By the end of the month, more and more secondaries players were piling in and the fight for SVG Capital had the City of London in its grip. With offers coming from numerous sources and the SVG management ready to sell its entire investment portfolio, sister publication Private Equity International has taken a look at those bidding for control.

Lynn Fordham, chief executive, SVG Capital
The woman in charge of SVG has nerves of steel. Credited with bringing SVG back from the brink after the 2008 financial crisis, Fordham has diversified the firm’s investments beyond its historic relationship with Permira, adding seven more managers, including blue chip names like L Catterton and IK Investment Partners. Has she prevailed against HarbourVest? Analysts seem to think so: SVG has pledged to return the cash from selling its entire portfolio – to Goldman and CPPIB – in a series of tender offers at 680 pence a share, a 4.6 percent premium to HarbourVest’s 650 pence-a-share offer.

David Atterbury, managing director, HarbourVest
HarbourVest made the initial hostile bid, and structured it as final, so it can’t – theoretically – be raised. Don’t count the firm out yet though; the market’s reaction to the news SVG planned to sell its portfolio to Goldman and CPPIB was muted, with shares 0.5 percent lower, at 667 pence (as of Thursday morning). With HarbourVest’s offer still valid for the next week, shareholders could yet opt for the potentially lower headline price for greater certainty.

David Atterbury is leading the bid and his expertise in restructuring and providing liquidity to funds has propelled him to the forefront of Europe’s rapidly growing secondaries market. He led the $806 million take-private of Zurich-listed vehicle Absolute Private Equity in 2011; he’s also struck deals with Motion Equity Partners, Bridgepoint, Portobello Capital and Magnum Capital.

Harold Hope, Gabriel Mollerberg, managing directors, Goldman Sachs Asset Management
As head of private equity secondaries activity, Hope is heading up the charge for the bank in its consortium with CPPIB. The two bidders are offering £748 million to buy all of SVG’s assets, the proceeds of which SVG is proposing to return to shareholders in a series of tender offers. Hope is a New York-based 17-year Goldman veteran, and says the bank boasts a “reputation for working with sellers to close transactions quickly”. Hope is of course conferring with respected London-based colleague Gabriel Mollerberg, who led the bank’s high profile Palamon Capital Partners’ stapled deal in 2015.

Michael Woolhouse, Jim Fasano, managing directors, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board 
The other party in the Goldman bid, CPPIB, is a highly sophisticated secondaries investor and has made some headline deals over the past year, including the acquisition of a $1 billion portfolio from Australia’s Future Fund in January. Woolhouse and Fasano lead the Canadian pension giant’s funds, secondaries and co-investments group from Toronto. No doubt Fasano has been in daily conference calls with London-based Nik Morandi, who joined CPPIB in August to lead its European secondaries and co-investment team. A nine-year secondaries investment veteran at Pantheon, Morandi – described as “brilliant” by market sources – will have his ear close to the ground.

Oliver Gardey and Sebastien Bowen, partners, Pomona Capital
Pomona – with consortium mate Pantheon – was briefly SVG’s favoured white knight, having agreed “in principle” to buy 50 percent of the assets for £379 million. The partners made the bid late on Tuesday; on Thursday, Goldman and CPPIB came back with an offer for the entire portfolio. Pomona’s European head Gardey, along with partner Bowen, has been spearheading efforts on SVG from London. Both are seasoned secondaries investors – Gardey was previously global co-head of Adams Street Partners’ secondaries business, while Bowen has around 15 years’ primary and secondaries experience, mostly at AXA Private Equity (now Ardian).

Matt Jones, partner, Pantheon Ventures
Leading the charge for Pantheon is one of its youngest-ever partners. Jones was tapped for the role at just 35. He is one of three partners in Pantheon’s US private equity secondaries team. Since moving from London to the US in 2007, he’s helped build Pantheon’s New York office, shaping investment strategy for its most recent funds. But it seems London is calling, and with meaty deals like the SVG transaction to tempt him, it’s no wonder that Jones is headed back to the City later this year.

What will be the next twist in the tale? E-mail me: nicole.l@peimedia.com