Having published our first-ever “Most Influential” and “Rainmakers” rankings last year – based on those who have transformed the asset class in the former case, and those who have had made their mark in capital raising in the latter – PDI now brings you our inaugural list of youthful achievers, the Rising Stars 2019.
How did we draw up the list? Initially, we sought nominations from the market, supplemented by supporting evidence in the form of key achievements. All nominees had to be under 40 years of age on 1 April 2019, and we asked that each person from within a nominator’s own organisation should be accompanied by a recommendation from someone outside that firm.
This process ensured a wide range of candidates to choose from, and we are extremely appreciative of the strong response from the market. However, this was only part of the process. Some candidates were selected by the editorial team, despite us not having received a nomination on their behalf. From our own experience of their talents, we simply felt they could not be overlooked.
As with our previous rankings, we found this an extremely interesting exercise and congratulate those in the list that follows. It is also worth noting that outside this list of 30 were many other worthy challengers. It is surprising how many notable achievements have been racked up by individuals who may have been exposed to the asset class for less than a decade. The overall conclusion was that the future of private debt appears to be in safe hands.
Sikander Ahmed, executive director, NBK Capital Partners
Ahmed joined Middle East and North Africa fund manager NBK in 2009, the year the firm launched its private debt business. Since then, he has been at the forefront of that business’s development, leading complex deals across multiple geographies and tailoring bespoke financing structures. According to peers, these include: the use of convertible preferred shares for a UAE-based wastewater treatment company; a Sharia-compliant debt instrument for an education business in Saudi Arabia; and an equity-sharing subordinated loan for a courier services firm in Turkey.
Ahmed has also helped to conceptualise and lead Islamic private debt initiatives, structuring Sharia-compliant deals across the Gulf Arab states and serving on the boards of numerous portfolio companies. A peer who worked with Ahmed in prior investment banking roles said he had been “instrumental in creating awareness in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey of the private debt asset class”.
Roy Awad, investment director, Permira Debt Managers
Awad spent five years in the leveraged finance teams at Natixis and BNP and three years as an investment manager at private equity firm Argos Soditic Private Equity before arriving at PDM in October 2015 and assuming responsibility for origination of new investments, credit analysis and monitoring of existing investments. He has led a number of direct lending deals, helping to boost PDM’s share of the French market. Among these deals was one for Private Sports Shop, which has grown rapidly to become one of the largest online sports platforms in Europe – a deal in which Awad worked closely with sponsor Bridgepoint, owner of PEI Media.
Awad is described by PDM’s head of private credit, David Hirschmann, as a “high spirited, very energetic and talented individual”. His areas of specialism include business services, technology and software.
Stephanie Berdik, partner, Kirkland & Ellis
Berdik joined Kirkland & Ellis in 2017 as a partner in the investment funds group. She was the lead partner on Ares Capital Europe Fund IV, which closed in July 2018 on more than €6.5 billion, making it the largest European direct lending fund raised to date. Since 2017, Berdik has been the lead partner on 20 different funds managed by Ares Management.
Berdik focuses on helping clients with the establishment of private investment funds, portfolio investment activities, capital raising, fund regulatory and compliance matters, and firm ownership and operational issues.
She is also one of the four founding members of Women in Private Debt, an organisation that aims to connect
and support women in the private credit asset class.
Taylor Boswell, managing director, Carlyle Group
Boswell joined Carlyle from Apollo Global Management in April 2018. He was the first senior-level hire made by Alexandar Popov, managing director and head of credit opportunities, to build Carlyle’s new opportunistic credit strategy. Since his hiring, Boswell has helped the fund complete five transactions worth more than $800 million in total. He is also a key member of the hiring and fundraising teams.
Popov says: “Taylor is an exceptional investor and strong team leader. It is rare to find professionals in our industry who have not only helped launch new initiatives, but also successfully invested and exited investments across various credit cycles, sectors and capital structures. Taylor not only demonstrates a remarkable technical expertise but, more importantly, a keen sense of investment judgment and the ability to see value and opportunity where others do not.”
Jared Brimberry, senior portfolio manager, Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation
Brimberry has helped Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation come into its own as a direct credit investor in the signature way the sovereign wealth fund has become recognised for in both private equity and real estate.
He has taken the lead in building the $1 billion Alaska Direct Alternative Credit programme, an amalgamation of internally managed non-investment grade bonds and ETFs as well as co-investments with its private credit managers.
Brimberry joined APFC in 2016 and helped produce a return of 8.79 percent for the 12 months ending 30 June 2018, according to an announcement last autumn. The three- and five-year returns for the same date were 6.47 percent and 7.2 percent respectively.
Firms with which APFC has invested include Atalaya Capital Management, Audax Group, Intermediate Capital Group and Permira Debt Managers.
Grant Chien, head of special situations financing, InfraRed NF Investment Advisers
“On multiple occasions I have … seen him work at 4am,” says Lawrence Chiang Kok Sung, chief executive of Metro Holdings, the Singapore-based corporate, of Chien. Chien makes mezzanine investments as well as conducting fundraising and investor relations for InfraRed NF, the Chinese real estate fund manager. While the quote above speaks to a strong work ethic, more important is the fact that the time has been spent wisely. Chiang Kok Sung cites an IRR of 18 percent or higher on mezzanine deals Chien has led. Perhaps this is part of the explanation for Metro having committed more than $400 million to InfraRed NF funds to date. Having led $200 million-worth of deals since January 2018 across Hong Kong and the provinces of Jiangsu and Sichuan, Chien is seen as a pioneer of the nascent Chinese private real estate debt market.
Scott Colton, partner, Paul Hastings
Colton joined Paul Hastings in 2016 to help build out the firm’s alternative lender and private credit practice and was promoted to partner in 2019. In 2017, he represented a second-lien loan agent and lenders for a $415 million second-lien term facility in connection with the sponsor-backed acquisition of Nord Anglia, a multibillion-dollar, multinational education company. Last year, Colton represented the agent and lenders for the creation of a $54 million senior credit facility in conjunction with the sponsor-backed acquisition of SRS Acquiom, a merger and acquisition advisory business. A colleague described him as “one of the nation’s most experienced attorneys with respect to negotiating agreements among lenders”.
He has extensive experience working with mezzanine funds, hedge funds, business development companies, speciality finance companies, SBIC funds and private equity funds.
Alex Cota, partner, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan
Cota runs the debt finance practice at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan and also works with the law firm’s restructuring group, of which he is a “critical part”, according to his nominator.
He has worked on Sears Canada’s $375 million first-in, last-out credit facility and on Cenveo’s $100 million debtor-in-possession financing in its bankruptcy case. He also represented a private credit firm in an oil refinery’s Chapter 11 proceeding in which the lender provided a “first-of-its-kind” working capital facility as the bankruptcy financing, his nominators said.
In addition to his work with private debt funds, Cota
works with business development companies, banks and hedge funds. His nominators said his “acumen, performance and stellar reputation among his clients and peers” made him stand out.
James Del Gaudio, portfolio manager, Pennsylvania School Employees’ Retirement System
A colleague of Del Gaudio describes him as “one of the most understated investors in this space. He deserves this type of recognition”.
Del Gaudio worked as a senior investment officer at the New York City Comptroller’s office for more than eight years before joining PSERS in 2015. He oversees more than $6 billion across the private credit and special situation sleeves of PSERS’ portfolio, and works closely with managers on co-investment strategies for the pension fund. Another of his colleagues said he is always willing to look into niche strategies and expansion opportunities. Since joining PSERS, Del Gaudio has recommended and closed more than $4.2 billion in deals.
Elizabeth DiCioccio, partner and co-head of global distribution, Mercury Capital Advisors
“She’s just as comfortable presenting to a CIO of one of the largest SWFs in the world as she is sitting down with the working level team and getting into the nitty gritty of a due diligence questionnaire.” So says a colleague of the Dubai-based DiCioccio, a senior executive at global capital raising and advisory firm Mercury Capital Advisors. A fundraiser who has built wide-ranging relationships with investors as far afield as the Middle East, Scandinavia, Australia and Azerbaijan, DiCioccio covers a range of strategies including venture, buyout, growth, real estate and infrastructure, as well as private debt.
Nicole Drapkin, managing director, Owl Rock Capital Partners
Owl Rock Capital Partners may have only been around for three years, but the firm has already made its mark in private credit. Much of this can be attributed to Drapkin, who was one of the company’s first five employees – taking a chance on a firm that, while launched by industry heavyweights, was still spreading its wings. Drapkin played an important role in creating the firm’s investment framework. According to her nominator, this framework allowed the firm to “experience significant growth in a short period of time”. She oversees Owl Rock’s relationship with more than 30 private equity sponsors, including Platinum Equity and TPG. “Nicole is incredibly diligent, very sharp, always asks great questions, and acts like a true partner,” says Platinum Equity’s head of capital markets, Kevin Smith.
Kirsten Glaser, founder and director, CR Capital Advisory
A former investment banker at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Glaser switched to real estate advisory at Q10 Capital, where she originated more than $1 billion of debt and equity transactions. She then transferred her US capital markets mindset to Europe, crossing the Atlantic to join JLL’s debt advisory team in London before moving to CR Investment Management two years ago and launching CR Capital Advisory in October 2017.
Peers describe Glaser as being “at the forefront of change”. Now in London, Glaser works closely with investors in European commercial real estate and recently advised Hines on its acquisition of Fresh Park Venlo – the largest-ever single asset logistics deal in the Netherlands. She is also a strong promoter of women in real estate, helping to bring North American organisation Commercial Real Estate for Women to the UK.
Dev Gopalan, chief executive, Angel Island Capital
Gopalan became the first chief executive of Golden Gate Capital-backed AIC in January 2018. He has since fleshed out the firm’s top ranks, hiring chief strategy officer Lynette Vanderwarker, general counsel and chief operating officer Nicole Macarchuk and chief financial officer Robert Ryan.
Gopalan has also expanded AIC’s business development and client relations teams. According to documents filed with the US Securities Exchange and Commission, it is currently in the midst of raising AIC Credit Opportunities Partners Fund II.
Gopalan previously worked at KKR, where he was the head of US private credit. He helped the firm expand its private credit business significantly from $1 billion to $10 billion of assets under management and grow from a staff of three to 22 in New York and 10 people in London. He also oversaw the enactment of risk ratings for the firm’s private credit positions.
Bobby Hagedorn, manager of real assets and credit, Missouri Department of Transportation and Highway Patrol Employees’ Retirement System
Hagedorn oversees the real assets and credit sleeves, leading the sourcing of new relationships and opportunities. In 2017, the pension fund cut its hedge fund allocation from 15 percent to 10 percent and boosted both the real assets and opportunistic credit buckets from 5 percent to 7.5 percent. Hagedorn’s nominator say he was “integral to the top percentile returns the team has generated” and applies his equity analyst experience in a “very intelligent way to the credit space”.
William Hayles, director, Credit Suisse Private Funds Group
Hayles is cited as a key member of the Credit Suisse PFG team, which had a prolific year of raising capital for debt strategies in 2017 and picked up PDI’s annual award in the European placement agent category.
But while debt is in Hayles’ sweet-spot, peers say he also brings useful perspectives from buyout and real estate strategies, which he has also advised on. In all, he has led execution on eight European private debt fund closings worth over €12 billion in commitments since 2008.
Described by colleagues as a leading project manager in the firm’s London office, Hayles has been involved in some of the landmark private debt fundraisings of recent years.
Tor Holberg Herno, vice-president, BlackRock
Having joined BlackRock as recently as 2017, following spells in Deutsche Bank’s structured finance department and at Credit Suisse (where he covered less-liquid credit solutions in the Nordics), Herno has quickly made a splash in the private credit unit.
Handed responsibility for alternative credit fundraising in the Nordic region, Copenhagen-based Herno has lured substantial capital for first-time funds from Scandinavian pension funds – for example, around 30 percent of the €1.8 billion in capital that was raised for BlackRock’s inaugural European Middle Market Private Debt fund. In addition to fundraising, Herno originates deals for the BlackRock private credit platform from private equity sponsors, advisors, family offices and banks with a presence in the Nordic mid-market.
Guillaume de Jongh, partner, Capzanine
Having closed his first private debt deal in 2008, de Jongh has since worked on a further 29 deals, worth €1.2 billion in total. Among these transactions have been the likes of asset management software provider Neoxam, data centre maintenance service business Evernex and subsea services firm Acteon.
Having developed strong specialisations in technology and healthcare, de Jongh’s progress was recognised when he was made a partner of the Paris-based fund manager four years ago. He has also been handed responsibilities ranging across origination, analysis, execution and the monitoring of investments.
Marcin Leja, managing director, CVI
When he joined six years ago, Leja was only the fourth employee at the Warsaw-based manager. Since then, he has been instrumental in helping to grow the firm, which is focused on Central and Eastern Europe, to a 27-strong platform while building out its strategies from plain vanilla senior financing into more complex areas such as mezzanine and structured equity.
A peer says Leja has met hundreds of companies and financial advisors, promoting private debt as a viable source of finance in a region where its use is still nascent. This has helped CVI build a dominant position in the market, with over 500 deals completed to date. Leja is also a regular on the conference circuit, where he acts as an evangelist for CEE private debt, making sure it is on the radar of the international investment community.
Rony Ma, director and US co-head of private credit research, KKR
Ma joined KKR Credit in 2011 and was promoted to director in 2018 at only 30 years old. He has since become an integral part of the credit team and manages 17 people.
He currently assists the investment committee with new investments and holds board roles across multiple existing investments. He has played an integral role in the transition period following the close of the merger of FSIC and CCT, an affiliate of KKR, in incorporating approximately 170 new loans into the KKR portfolio. Ma also serves on the junior committee for Answer the Call, an organisation providing financial assistance to families of New York City police officers, firefighters and other emergency service personnel who have died in the line of duty.
Nicolas Nedelec, managing director, Idinvest Partners
At just 33, Nedelec has already racked up many years of private debt experience, formerly in the structured finance team at Natixis and now as a managing director at Paris-based fund manager Idinvest Partners.
He has played a vital role in the development of the firm’s private debt business, joining when it was launched in 2007. From an initial €150 million dedicated to French small-cap mezzanine, the firm now has a €3.5 billion platform covering the European mid-cap space through unitranche, mezzanine and leveraged loan offerings. Despite still being youthful himself, he is now a mentor supporting younger employees as they move into more senior roles.
Adrien Paturaud, counsel, Goodwin Procter
Having initially had spells at law firms Shearman & Sterling and Linklaters, Paturaud joined Goodwin Procter in 2016. What has caught the eye of the market is his innovation, particularly leading the charge in the development of the unitranche bond market in France since 2011. That was the year when he advised on a seminal unitranche for Flexitallic Group, the sealing products manufacturer.
Since then, he has worked on many of the country’s leading unitranche bonds. These have included the €140 million facility supporting the acquisition of Acteon from PEI Media owner Bridgepoint by Dentressangle, the French family office; and the €85 million unitranche supporting the purchase of LPG by Carlyle Group in 2018. Also last year, he was credited with pioneering the “first-loss/second-loss” structure in France for Eurazeo’s purchase of a stake in motorcycle brand Shark.
Ruth Pearson, general counsel, LendInvest
Pearson joined the real estate finance platform in 2016. She previously spent nine years at Simmons & Simmons, including secondments at Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken and RBS. As LendInvest’s first legal hire, she joined with the ambitious target of building the legal function from the ground up. She now manages a team of four and oversees the compliance function.
A peer says she has overseen “every key milestone” for the business since she joined. These include two major financing rounds, LendInvest’s transition from an unregulated peer platform to an online alternative investment fund, and transaction management for nearly £760 million ($1 billion; €891 million) of funding from major financial institutions.
The first woman appointed to the company’s executive committee, Pearson leads its first corporate social responsibility scheme, providing support in the workplace, marketplace, community and environment.
Timothé Rauly, head of funds group, AXA Investment Managers – Real Assets
Rauly joined AXA IM – Real Assets in 2006, initially with a brief of investing in CRE mortgage loans. He rose to become head of CRE finance where he oversaw investment of more than €10 billion into private and public commercial real estate debt.
In this role, Rauly spearheaded the launch of the Commercial Real Estate Senior 9 and 10 funds, the largest in the firm’s flagship CRE debt fund series, representing combined capital of €4.3 billion. In 2014, he led the firm’s first transatlantic debt investment and then oversaw last year’s acquisition of the $9.4 billion Quadrant Real Estate Advisors platform. By that time, Rauly had risen to the role of head of funds group and became a member of the AXA IM – Real Assets board. During his tenure, AXA IM – Real Assets’ CRE debt platform has picked up numerous awards from PDI and sister title, Real Estate Capital.
Rodolfo Sánchez-Colberg, principal, Parliament Capital Management
Sánchez-Colberg founded Parliament Capital Management, a credit manager based in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The firm’s first institutional fund, the Parliament High Yield Fund, focuses on credit investment opportunities in Puerto Rico and the continental US. The vehicle invests in both senior and junior debt. The firm has invested approximately $160 million since its inception.
Sánchez-Colberg’s nominator referred to him as an “innovator in the Puerto Rico industry for this type of strategy”. The firm is preparing to launch a second fund that will continue the same strategy as the first.
Before founding Parliament Capital, Sánchez-Colberg was chief executive of another San Juan-based company: Operating Partners Company, a servicer of non-performing financial assets, such as consumer loans, leases and residential and commercial mortgages.
Brett Shapiro, partner and head of corporate strategy, Varagon Capital Partners
Shapiro was barely 30 when he co-founded Varagon Capital Partners with its chief executive, Walter Owens.
In the five years since Varagon’s launch, Shapiro has played an important role in creating other partnerships that have helped the firm make $9 billion in loan commitments to mid-market companies. This included negotiating and structuring the Senior Direct Lending Programme with Ares Capital Corporation, which provides senior and unitranche loans.
Shapiro has also helped expand the firm from just him and Owens to more than 65 employees. He previously worked at Oak Hill Capital Partners and UBS, where he worked on the American Express acquisition of GE’s corporate payments business.
Hernan Sorate, vice-president, Lazard
Currently a vice-president in Lazard’s private capital advisory business, Sorate first built his reputation in Citi’s international fund distribution team, where he advised across the private debt spectrum in areas such as direct lending, infrastructure debt and trade finance. Antoine Josserand, partner and head of business development at Pemberton, was Sorate’s line manager and says he saw at “first hand his positive impact on the team”.
While at Citi, Sorate advised on Pemberton’s €1.2 billion European Mid-Market Debt Fund I and Tikehau Capital’s €2.1 billion Direct Lending Fund IV. He was part of the team that picked up PDI’s European and US placement awards in 2016.
Since moving to Lazard, Sorate has focused on coverage of investors in countries, including France, Spain, Italy and Israel as part of the European team.
Sloan Sutta, managing director, Crayhill Capital
A colleague says of Sutta: “His specialised skillset and tenure in this dedicated field of private credit, in addition to his experience at top-notch firms focused on niche and asset-based private credit, make him a rising star in private debt.”
Sutta has worked in the asset lending space throughout his career. He started as a credit analyst in Credit Suisse’s asset finance capital markets group, before moving to Garrison Investment Group where he focused on speciality finance, real estate and structured credit investment opportunities. After Garrison, Sutta became a managing director in Och-Ziff’s US private structured and illiquid credit team.
Now at Crayhill Capital, Sutta works on sourcing, origination and underwriting complex solutions within asset-based lending. He has acquired and realised more than $2 billion in distressed real estate debt, commercial and industrial, and equipment loans since the financial crisis of 2008.
James Wallington, director, CVC Credit Partners
Among the numerous nominations for CVC’s Wallington is a vote of confidence from a source at a reinsurer, who says Wallington helped to oversee and structure the company’s first private debt investment: “He helped us to gain confidence in the private debt asset class.”
The former Babson Capital employee was also cited for having raised the profile of CVC’s credit business in the UK and continental Europe through an extensive network of contacts; as a facilitator of meetings with key team members and a provider of vital information; as a tough terms and fee negotiator; and as a highly adept communicator and provider of useful market insights.
One source at an advisory firm applauds Wallington’s hosting of a roundtable for family offices, which “struck just the right tone – not too salesy”.
Another lauds him as “friendly, approachable and willing to have an honest conversation about difficult issues”.
Molly Whitehouse, director, Mariner Investment Group
Whitehouse, who joined Mariner Investment Group in 2012, focuses on origination, structuring, and management of the due diligence process for investments. Since 2013, she and her team have completed approximately $15 billion of notional risk transfers.
Most recently, she helped originate and structure the Room2Run transaction with the African Development Bank. According to Whitehouse’s colleagues, the transaction – the first-ever synthetic securitisation between a multilateral development bank and private sector investors – is regarded as one of the most prominent impact investments ever completed.
Whitehouse is frequently sought out to speak on panels and conferences about esoteric asset classes, impact and green securitisation.
Felix Zhang, managing director, Ares Management
Zhang has helped drive the growth of the alternative credit platform at Ares Management. The business line is the result of a rebranding and includes the firm’s asset-backed and structured credit strategies.
The Harvard graduate joined the firm four years ago and has originated, structured and closed over $1 billion in asset-backed investments with various speciality finance companies. His nominator says he played a “key role” in the expansion of the alternative credit group, which has been an area of focus for the firm of late.
“We believe our alternative credit strategy has an addressable market of over $3 trillion in assets across the globe,” chief executive Michael Arougeti said on the firm’s fourth-quarter earnings call. “As discussed over the past year, we’ve added and we’ll continue to add significant talent to our team and have enhanced our capabilities across a wide range of assets.”