Sir Ronald Cohen stages comeback

The Apax founder is set to launch a series of alternative asset vehicles, the first of which is likely to be a property-focused hedge fund.

The retired founder of Apax Partners, Sir Ronald Cohen, is courting investors for a new alternative asset management business, Portland Capital, reportedly in partnership with Lord Rothschild.

Cohen stepped down from his position as chief executive of Apax last year and is running Portland Capital, a fund manager investing in real estate, private equity, hedge funds and commodities. A property hedge fund is likely to be its first product, according to the Financial Times.

Cohen has tapped George Kountouris, a former head of Credit Suisse's Real Estate Capital Partners, to run the firm's property arm.

Before joining Credit Suisse in 2003, Kountouris worked at Deutsche Bank where he was a managing director of private equity real estate. While there, he worked alongside Roger Barris, now the European head of Merrill Lynch's global principal investment group.

Kountouris, who declined to comment, is an alumnus of Harvard Business School and graduated in the same 1982 class as John Grayken, the founder of Lone Star.

Like his HBS contemporary, Kountouris has spent a significant amount of time working on property-backed loan transactions. In the mid 1990s, while working in the London office of Bankers Trust, he helped advise the French subsidiary of Barclays Bank in their sale of $175 million (€136 million) worth of office and housing development loans to a US consortium.

The firm would not comment on its plans at this stage, but a spokesperson for Portland Capital said that it is still in the “very early stages of discussions with potential investors.” The spokesperson confirmed that Portland Capital will invest in private equity funds rather than set up its own vehicle, but added that details were sketchy and no targets or strategies had been set at this point.

The spokesperson also noted that Nigel King, formerly at Salomon Smith Barney, has also joined Portland Capital.

In addition to his investment in Portland Capital, Lord Rothschild is also reportedly involved as a backer in Aurigo Management, a recently-launched distressed firm headed by Archie Norman.

Sir Ronald, an Egyptian-born Briton, founded Apax Partners in 1971 alongside Alan Patricof and Maurice Tchénio.

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