U.S. buyout firms have been on the ground in Europe for more than a decade, but their overseas peers have had a tougher time setting up shop stateside. Part of the problem has been a lack of desire, but the bigger impediment has been in signing top talent. After all, why leave behind a hometown firm to run an outpost where you participate in partners meetings via videophone?
Maybe the key is finding people who have already done the outpost thing, but in reverse.
That’s part of the story behind today’s announcement that UK-based Permira has hired John Coyle as co-head of its New York office. Coyle has spent the past two decades with JPMorgan, including his most recent role as global head of financial sponsors. He’s spent most of that in New York, but in 1998 moved to London to help launch JPMorgan’s European sponsor coverage. It was there that he first met the Permira team (then much smaller), and where he became comfortable working away from the power nexus.
“I’ve worked an ocean apart from where my group is based, so it isn’t something that worries me,” Coyle explains. “I’ve also worked on both continents, which gives me a perspective on both. The key is that I know the Permira team and they know me.”
Permira’s formal courtship of Coyle began late last year, when he was approached by New York office chief Tom Lister (ex-Fortsmann Little). “He told me that they had more opportunities than resources,” Coyle says. “I was very happy at JP Morgan, but also realized that if I stayed much longer I’d be there for life… Opportunities like this only come along every so often, and the longer you don’t take them the fewer you get.”
I also asked Coyle about this notion that European private equity firms currently have more buying power than their U.S. counterparts, due to currently valuations. He basically said I was being silly. “The euro thing has nothing to do with it… No good private equity firm is trying to make profit based upon currency.”