Top Bankers Still Drawn to Private Equity

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Not long ago, crossing over to private equity meant riding the buyout boom. Now, top bankers making the jump are hoping to profit from the bust.

In recent weeks a host of senior bankers have left their firms for private equity jobs, The Wall Street Journal reports. Among them:

- The head of JPMorgan Chase's team covering financial sponsors (PE clients), John Coyle, just joined Permira, a leading European PE firm spun off from Schroders in 2001. Coyle will be co-head of North American business. A 20-year veteran of JPM and its predecessor Chase Manhattan, Coyle told the Journal his departure has nothing to do with the current deal slowdown. If anything, "I'm jumping from the frying pan into the fire."

- Olivier Sarkozy, co-head of UBS's financial institutions banking group, joined Carlyle Group in February.

- In March, Louis P Friedman, Bear Stearns' global mergers and acquisitions chairman, jumped to hedge fund P. Schoenfeld Asset Management to run a new fund focused on private equity and long-term public holdings.

- Christopher Varelas, a Citigroup dealmaker for technology companies, left to join fledgling Bigwood Capital, a venture capital and PE firm founded by former Flextronics Chief Executive Michael Marks.

The credit crunch has severely crimped deals involving PE firms. While that's causing problems for investment banks and their teams dedicated to the formerly big-swinging "financial sponsors," the buyout industry itself continues to raise capital and plow new fields. Permira, for instance, is currently investing an 11 billion euro ($17.3 billion) global fund raised in 2006. Advent International just finished raising a 6.6 billion euro ($10.3 billion) fund focused on buyouts of mid-size companies valued at $200 million to $1 billion.

At the same time, investment banks' global fee revenue from buyout shops plunged 77 percent in this year's first quarter, compared to the same period of 2007, according to Dealogic figures cited by the Journal. "After the several golden years of negotiating multi-billion-dollar deals, the bankers face the unpleasant situation of toiling at big investment banks during a downturn," the newspaper observes.

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