Landry’s Retirement Caps TA’s Evolution

Kevin Landry’s retirement from TA Associates, the Boston-based firm he helped build for 45 years, has been in the works for about 10 years, Buyouts reported yesterday, citing an interview with Managing Director Brian Conway.

 

The Boston Globe reported on Landry’s retirement in a lengthy Aug. 5 profile. Landry is 68 and has been battling lung cancer since 2010, when doctors told him he had 10 months to live, the story noted.

Landry, the former CEO of the firm, announced in May, after an annual meeting with investors, that he was retiring from his more recent role of chairman. Landry is now a senior adviser at the firm, a position that allows him to sit on company boards and join strategy sessions and investment staff meetings but not to sponsor deals.

Succession at the executive level is of great importance for investors in private equity funds. When putting down tens of millions of dollars in a fund that has, say, a 10-year life span, pensions and other investors want to know who might be retiring and have confidence that the firm’s next generation of leaders is competent.

TA Associates was not caught off-guard by Landry’s retirement, Conway said, in part because Landry himself had helped map the firm’s succession plans for more than a decade. Landry had also “tried” to retire on a few occasions over the last 10 years before deciding to stay on longer for special reasons, such as helping the firm get through the Great Recession, Conway said.

“He is a guy who absolutely lives for the business he played a major role in creating and is one of these guys who is addicted to deals,” Conway said. “But the good news about him trying to retire previously, we were able to plan his transition over the last decade.”

Under Landry, the firm’s management structure has evolved from a top-down CEO-driven model to a far more institutional partnership. Conway explained that in the late 1980s, there wasn’t even an investment committee—Landry’s OK was all that was needed to approve a deal. Today Partner Bruce Johnston assigns four-person investment committees to each deal. And the firm is managed by an executive committee that consists of Richard Tadler, who assumed Landry’s chairman role; Conway, who leads the technology group; Roger Kafker, who leads the financial business services group; Ajit Nedungadi, who leads TA’s International group from London; and Kurt Jaggers, who oversees the Menlo Park office and heads that office’s technology and services group.

Landry was also well known for leading TA’s formidable fundraising campaigns with gusto. Landry joined the firm in the late 1960s, just as it was starting. The firm has since raised $18 billion, much of that under his direction. But for the last few funds, Conway has led the firm’s fundraising efforts, along with Pamela Harris, who was hired as TA’s first vice president of investor relations in 2010.

“Kevin knew it was important for the organization, for its investors, that TA not be about just one person,” Conway said. “He built a firm with partners who could manage different groups. There’s a reason ‘TA Associates’ doesn’t include someone’s name.”

Image credit: TA Associates

Bernard Vaughan is a senior editor at Buyouts Magazine. Follow his tweets @BVaughanReuters. Follow Buyouts tweets @Buyouts.