London-headquartered Permira strengthens its US push with the hire of JP Morgan Securities' John Coyle to co-head its New York office.

After spending the last ten years as director of JP Morgan Securities' sponsor coverage unit, John Coyle came to know the complexities of private equity as well as the general partners with which he routinely worked.

“I have seen as many deals as anyone in private equity. I have a good idea of what to look for,” says Coyle, a 20-year veteran of the global banking giant.

That mix of experience and confidence prompted London-based buyout firm Permira to tap Coyle as co-head of its expanding New York office.

“I had the choice of spending the rest of my career at a tremendous firm or take an opportunity to try something new,” says Coyle. “It is an evolution of what I have been doing.”

Despite the credit crunch hampering mega-deal activity, Permira is looking to expand at a fair clip. The firm, which has raised €21.6 billion ($34.2 billion) in funds since its inception in 1985, is planning to launch a Hong Kong office and a technology-oriented office on the US' West Coast later this year.

Although Coyle is realistic about how a US economic slowdown will affect deal-making capacity, he is optimistic that Permira can weather the storm.

“Permira has a great opportunity in the US when the buyout market re-emerges,” says Coyle.“And I have time now while business is slower to assess the opportunity.”

Since launching its North American operations in 2002, Permira has exited several successful deals.

In a consortium with three other private equity firms, Permira bought satellite communications pioneer Intelsat in 2004 for $515 million and in February sold its stake for ten times its initial investment, according to Coyle's fellow New York cohead Tom Lister.

In March, Permira exited Indianapolis-based safety equipment manufacturer Aearo Technologies for two times its initial investment.

Permira is not the only London-based private equity heavyweight to expand its operations abroad despite the credit dry-up. European rival BC Partners is also significantly growing its North American activities. The firm has recruited James Rubin and Daniel Selmonosky from One Equity Partners as senior partners for its New York team.

Evercore Partners' co-founder, president and co-chief executive officer, Austin Beutner, will retire from the firm on 1 May 2008. The 47-year old Beutner had been on medical leave from the boutique merger advisory and mid-market private equity firm since December, due to injuries sustained in a bicycle accident and a series of resulting medical procedures. Roger Altman, fellow cofounder, co-CEO and chairman, will become sole CEO of the publicly traded company. “It is with nostalgia and wistfulness that I accept Austin's decision,” Altman said in a statement. Beutner and Altman, both Blackstone Group alumni, founded Evercore in 1996.

In another foray into the world of alternative investments, Hollywood talent agency William Morris has launched a blank cheque company – and tapped private equity veteran Edward Mathias and Hollywood star Ashton Kutcher to help manage it . The SPAC, Performance Acquisition Company, will pursue businesses in the publishing, entertainment, and media industries. Sitting on Performance Acquisitions' board of directors is Carlyle Group co-founder and SPAC veteran Edward Mathias, a director of the blank cheque company that acquired clothes retailer American Apparel last year. Mathias will be joined on the board by That 70's Show and Punk'd star Kutcher. The prominent talent and literary agency is seeking to raise $500 million (€320 million) in a public offering.

Harvard Management Corporation (HMC), responsible for overseeing the largest university endowment in the world, appointed its former private equity vice president Jane Mendillo to head its turnover-roiled investment unit. Mendillo, currently directing Wellesley College's endowment, will assume her new position as HMC's chief investment officer on 1 July. HMC currently manages roughly $34.9 billion (€22.1 billion) in assets, of which nearly $3 billion is allocated to private equity. In September of last year, then CIO Mohamed El-Erian left the endowment to rejoin bond giant Pacific Investment Management Company. Former Goldman Sachs director and Harvard Business professor Robert Kaplan was named interim chief executive in October. Shortly after Kaplan's arrival, two high-level HMC investment officials departed the firm.

Behrman Capital has hired former chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace as an operating partner. The mid-market specialist has also appointed Pace chairman of California-based lighting and casing company Pelican Products and a director of New York-based defence electronics company ILC Industries. Pace will be responsible for helping Behrman portfolio companies build value as well as sourcing and evaluating potential acquisition platforms. Pace was the 16th chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and served in the military for more than 40 years.

Private equity firm Brentwood Associates has promoted four members of its 13-person team: Steve Moore, Eric Reiter, Rahul Aggarwal and Toros Yeremyan. Moore and Reiter have each been promoted to partner from principal. Brentwood recently closed its fourth fund on $540 million (€344 million), bringing the firm's assets under management to more than $1 billion. The firm is currently raising its fifth fund targeting $500 million.

The $6 billion (€3.9 billion) Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has promoted its director of private equity and real assets, Denise Strack, to chief investment officer following the departure of former CIO Alice Ruth for Quadrangle Group. Since joining the San Francisco-based Moore Foundation in 2002, Strack has grown the portfolio of “private equity and real assets” to 21 percent of assets under management. Its long term allocation for alternative investments is between 35 percent and 40 percent.