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13 August 2004

Exponent announces final closing of first £400 million buy-out fund

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Exponent Private Equity has announced the final closing of its first fund, Exponent Private Equity Partners, with commitments of £400 million. The fund has been raised in near record time, with the final closing taking place just five months after the private placement memorandum was first issued.

Exponent was founded by Richard Campin, Chris Graham, Hugh Richards and Tom Sweet-Escott, four former senior directors of 3i's London-based buy-out business.

Despite the level of demand for the new fund, which exceeded £500 million, Exponent resisted the temptation to raise a substantially larger fund. Chris Graham said, “We decided there was considerable merit in being a tightly focused business, concentrating on making high quality investments.”

Exponent will continue the founding partners’ focus on investing in larger, more complex mid market buy-outs of UK companies and can commit up to £100m in any one transaction. The team is best known for a number of lucrative, high-profile deals including the buy-outs of Go-Fly, the low-cost airline, Pinewood-Shepperton Studios, which successfully floated the London Stock Exchange in May, and YBR Group, the telephone directories business that was recently refinanced through the issue of a high yield bond.

Capital came from a broad spread of experienced and sophisticated investors in the UK (28%), continental Europe (30%) and the US (42%). Investors included funds managed by Pantheon Ventures, Allianz Private Equity Partners, Danske Private Equity, HarbourVest Partners, Hermes Private Equity, LGT Capital Partners, West Midlands Metropolitan Authorities Pension Fund, Massachusetts PRIM and SCM Strategic Capital Management AG, as well as substantial US endowment and European private family sources.

Investors were attracted by the apparent gap in the UK mid-market for a focused and highly experienced team.

Richard Campin commented: “We are very pleased with the support we have received from investors, particularly as we were raising our first fund at a time when some of the established names appear to be finding it hard going.

“There was strong investor interest in backing a new force in the mid-market and we were well-positioned to take advantage of this. The four of us have a collective determination to build the most highly regarded business in the UK mid-market. This is a very exciting time and we are already examining a number of promising deals, some of which have been shown to us on a proprietary basis. For many years, we advocated entrepreneurship from within the confines of a large company and are pleased to have now taken the entrepreneurial step ourselves.”

Helix Associates Limited acted as exclusive placement agent for the fund.

The fund's legal adviser was Debevoise & Plimpton.