Changemakers who helped shape private debt: Part 2

As we look back on 10 years of extraordinary growth for the asset class, we select 30 of the pivotal figures in private debt’s evolution. Here are our final 15 changemakers.

Below are our changemakers listed in alphabetical order from G-Z.
Click here to see those listed A-G

John Graham, CPP Investments

From a standing start when he joined the private debt group, CPP veteran John Graham soon helped make it a major force in the market, racking up C$36.6 billion ($27.6 billion; €22.7 billion) in assets under management by March 2019. Graham stayed with credit through various reorganisations that expanded the empire; renamed as “the principal credit investments group” and then the shortened “credit investments group”, it ended up bringing together all credit-related activities including in real estate debt and public credit. Rising swiftly through the ranks, Graham took on business management and portfolio strategy roles before becoming head of principal credit investments in 2016 and then head of the credit investments group. He reached the pinnacle of CPP Investments in early 2021, appointed its new chief executive officer in place of the departing Mark Machin.

Mark Jenkins, Carlyle Group

Jenkins and his then-colleague Adam Vigna oversaw the purchase of Antares Capital from GE Capital, which was shedding assets thanks to the Dodd-Frank Act that overhauled financial regulations in the US. GE purchased Antares Capital for more than $5 billion, doubling the size of its mid-market sponsored finance business, in 2005, and in 2015 agreed to sell it to Canada Pension Plan Investment Board in a deal valued at $12 billion. GE Capital, which had been the largest non-bank lender in private equity transactions pre-GFC, had all but left the asset class. Post-CPPIB, both men continue to be prominent in the industry. Jenkins is now Carlyle’s first global head of credit, while Vigna is one of the key figures behind Sagard Credit Partners. Jenkins has overseen a huge expansion of Carlyle’s credit platform in recent years.

Ken Kencel, Churchill Asset Management

Another person on the list with claims to have been there when the asset class was only just flickering to life, Kencel boasts a 35-year career in the investment industry, latterly as president and CEO of Churchill Asset Management, the Nuveen affiliate. He is also chairman of the board, president and CEO of Nuveen Churchill Direct Lending. A stalwart of the US mid-market lending scene, he was previously a managing director at Carlyle Group and president and director of its TCG BDC. His investment banking roles have included head of leveraged finance at Royal Bank of Canada. At Churchill, Kencel has been key to advancing it into Europe via partnerships with Arcmont Asset Management (see Anthony Fobel entry) and Paris-based Tikehau Capital.

Ted Koenig, Monroe Capital

Koenig is another long-standing industry veteran who has helped create a distinct identity for Monroe Capital in the US mid-market via a diverse strategic platform that straddles the likes of direct lending, asset-based lending, speciality finance, opportunistic credit and equity.

The chairman and chief executive officer of Monroe, Koenig’s roles also include being president and CEO of Monroe Capital Corporation, a publicly traded BDC. Prior to founding Monroe in 2004, Koenig was president and CEO of Hilco Capital, a junior secured/mezzanine debt fund. Earlier he had spent 13 years at Chicago-based law firm Holleb & Coff.

Marc Lipschultz, Blue Owl Capital

An alumni of Goldman Sachs, where he focused on mergers and acquisitions and principal investments, Lipschultz made his mark at KKR over two decades. He served on the firm’s management committee and as global head of energy and infrastructure. In February 2016, he became co-founder of credit fund manager Owl Rock Capital along with Doug Ostrover (a co-founder of GSO Capital Partners along with Bennett Goodman, see separate entry) and Craig Packer, former head of leveraged finance in the Americas at Goldman Sachs. Owl Rock established itself as one of the largest players in direct lending prior to becoming a unit of Blue Owl Capital. Through all his career iterations, Lipschultz has been recognised as highly influential both in credit and alternative assets more generally.

Howard Marks, Oaktree Capital Management

Any discussion of the most pivotal figures in debt investing would be incomplete without Marks. He is viewed as a pioneer of distressed securities and his name has become synonymous with the strategy. Oaktree’s initial closed-end distressed debt fund – a $97 million vehicle that operated under the TCW name, where Marks was prior to Oaktree – generated a 24.7 percent net internal rate of return and a 2.3x multiple of drawn capital. The firm set several fundraising records: in 1997, it raised the then-record $1.55 billion OCM Opportunities Fund II and in 2008 launched the first fund to pass the 11-figure mark: the $10.9 billion OCM Opportunities Fund VIIB. The opinions and insights offered in his memos are among the most prominent commentaries on private debt and garner widespread discussion.

Cecile Mayer-Levi, Tikehau Capital

With the birth of direct lending dating back to the aftermath of the global financial crisis – and the financing gap that arose as a result – there is a tendency to think of the years 2007-08 as marking the beginning of private debt. In fact, there were numerous mezzanine funds around prior to the GFC and one of these – France’s Omnes – was where Mayer-Levi began plying her trade as an investment director. When she moved on to Ardian, she became a pioneer of the now-ubiquitous unitranche investment – broadening Ardian’s investment scope in the process. Mayer-Levi then joined Tikehau Capital as head of private debt in 2013 and has gone on to build one of Europe’s largest private debt teams over the last decade. She is widely considered to be a pioneer of the asset class.

Andrew McCullagh, Hayfin Capital Management

These days, there’s a lot of talk about specialisation in private debt – an area in which Hayfin was arguably ahead of the curve with its focus on areas such as life sciences, maritime and real estate in addition to its more standard direct lending activity.

At the heart of shaping the firm’s identity has been McCullagh, managing director and portfolio manager for private credit. A leveraged financier by background, McCullagh spent nine years at Merrill Lynch – including as head of European leveraged finance – as well as having spells at Bankers Trust and Deutsche Morgan Grenfell.

Steve Nesbitt, Cliffwater

Nesbitt has been an advocate for private credit and developed two separate indices for the asset class, providing performance benchmarks for a relatively opaque asset class. The Cliffwater BDC Index and the Cliffwater Direct Lending Index are both featured on Bloomberg.

For the CDLI, launched three years ago, Nesbitt and his team calculated direct lending returns back to 2004 using BDCs’ Securities and Exchange Commission filings. It has provided limited partners with a proxy to broadly understand performance when these figures are usually carefully guarded by GPs.

Isabelle Scemama, AXA IM Alts

Within the substantial business activities of AXA IM Alts – the alternatives arm of AXA IM, which has over 800 people in 16 offices – Scemama has been responsible for establishing major new business units. In 2005 she launched the firm’s commercial real estate lending platform and then, in 2013, repeated the trick with the launch of an infrastructure debt lending platform.

Following these innovations, Scemama took responsibility for the full fund management activity of AXA IM – Real Assets, and was appointed chief executive officer of AXA – IM Real Assets in 2017. In 2020, she was named global head of AXA IM Alts.

Dwight Scott, Blackstone Credit

When Bennett Goodman (see separate entry) stepped down from his full-time role at GSO Capital Partners in August 2019, it was effectively the end of an era with fellow co-founders Doug Ostrover and Tripp Smith having previously departed for pastures new. But it was also the beginning of a new era with the birth of Blackstone Credit and it was energy sector specialist Dwight Scott who stepped forward to take the reins. The head of Blackstone’s energy investment platform had been made president of GSO in 2017. Under Scott’s stewardship, Blackstone has continued to cement its place as a top-five private credit GP in terms of assets under management, according to our PDI 100 ranking – steering the firm successfully through what could have been a difficult transition.

Christine Vanden Beukel, Crescent Capital

Christine Vanden Beukel is a passionate advocate for ESG, which shines through within her roles as managing director and head of European credit markets, ESG strategy and policy development at Crescent Capital.

Her achievements include developing a portfolio company survey to track ESG metrics, as well as leading her European private credit team to record deployment in 2021 – more than double any previous year. Vanden Beukel has extensive experience in senior loans, second lien, mezzanine, high-yield bonds, securities and special situations. Peers describe her as “someone many turn to for guidance and career advice”.

Emilia Wiener, TIAA

To see New York-based insurance giant TIAA as a major allocator to private debt is to be guilty of understatement. Our Global Investor 2022 ranking showed TIAA had the largest percentage allocation to the asset class of any organisation in the world, at 33.4 percent. At the heart of its strategic decision-making since she joined from AXA US in 2016 has been Wiener, the CIO of TIAA’s general account. “The tilt within the general fixed income portfolio over the last five years has been towards private markets,” Winer told us in 2021. At that time, the private debt portfolio was worth around $90 billion and Wiener’s fixed income portfolio made up 75-80 percent of the general account’s total capital. But Wiener wasn’t happy with the status quo – insisting to us there was scope for TIAA to do more in areas like collateralised loan obligations.

James Zelter, Apollo Global Management

A co-president at investment powerhouse Apollo, Zelter co-leads the firm’s day-to-day operations, including all the firm’s revenue-generating businesses and enterprise solutions across its alternative investment platform. When it comes to credit, Zelter has made a huge impact since joining Apollo in 2006, overseeing the broad expansion of the credit platform which now has over $350 billion in assets under management.

A former high-yield trader at Goldman Sachs and chief investment officer of Citigroup Alternative Investments, Zelter has busied himself with various progressive initiatives both within and outside Apollo – including co-founding Apollo Women Empower, the firm’s women’s network.

Deborah Zurkow, AllianzGI

Having made a name primarily in infrastructure as chief executive of Trifinium Advisors – a subsidiary of US insurance group MBIA – and then head of public finance EMEA at MBIA Insurance UK, Zurkow joined AllianzGI as managing director and chief investment officer of infrastructure debt in 2012. She went on to become the firm’s global head of alternatives in May 2016 and then global head of investments in January 2020. The latest role sees her covering private markets, equities, fixed income and multi-asset strategies. A strong advocate for private debt and other asset classes, Zurkow is on the board of the Alternative Credit Council and is a founding board member of the Long-Term Infrastructure Investors Association.