US private equity and venture capital firm H&Q Asia Pacific has promoted two members of its Seoul team, Jong Won “John” Lee and Yuchul “YC” Rhim, to the positions of managing director. Both men were previously senior vice presidents with H&QAP Korea.
Lee has focused on H&QAP’s Korean investments since the firm established its Seoul office in 1998; he previously worked for Credit Agricole Indosuez in Paris. Rhim joined H&QAP Korea in 2003, after having worked as a director at Littauer Technologies, an Internet holding company, and then at Leadcorp, a portfolio company of H&QAP.
The promotion and leadership of two locals may help ease the passage of the Silicon Valley-based firm’s future deals in South Korea and elevate its reputation in the Asian buyout arena. Public criticism of foreign private equity firms ran high after the Asian financial crisis of 1998, when several high-profile firms, including The Carlyle Group and the TPG-affiliated Newbridge Capital, made large profits by bailing out and exiting Korean banks and firms, which resulted in increased regulatory restrictions on foreign buyout firms.
H&QAP has strong historic ties to South Korea, having been the first pan-Asian private equity firm to open a Korea-dedicated office. In 1998 the firm spent $30 million (€22.5 million) bailing out brokerage firm Good Morning Securities, which sold in 2002 to Shinhan Financial Group for $200 million. In 2005, the firm received a $200 million commitment from Korea’s National Pension Corporation, making it the first foreign private equity firm to receive such investment.
“Korea is a key country for our firm with significant investment opportunities,” Ta-lin Hsu, H&QAP’s founder and chairman, said in a statement. The promotions of Lee and Rhim, he said “demonstrates our strong commitment to the region and the opportunities it presents to us”.
H&Q AP manages assets of $2.2 billion. Early last year H&QAP closed on $300 million for the H&Q-NPS Fund I, which is slated to focus exclusively on the Korean market. H&QAP’s Korea portfolio includes Leadcorp, a chemical trucking, highway concession, and oil facilities leasing business; NITGenTechnologies, a producer of optical fingerprint sensors and peripherals devices; and KSNet, a provider of banking and credit card services.