Private equity firms gear up for battle with MPs

The world's best-known private equity firms were this week using public affairs specialists to help them prepare for a potentially explosive encounter with the Treasury select committee.

Permira, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), Blackstone, Carlyle Group and 3i have all been called to app­ear before the committee next week, as part of an ongoing inquiry into private equity funds.

The MPs will also hear from trade unions Unite and GMB – both of whom have been fiercely critical of private equity companies.

One senior PA profess­ional with significant select committee experience said: ‘This is a controversial issue that has had a lot of negative publicity, so it’s likely to be quite a testing environment for private equity firms. It is important that they fund­amentally understand exac­tly why they have been called and what the committee’s agenda will be.’

Ahead of the hearing, Permira, headed in the UK by managing partner Damon Buffini, is taking advice from its retained agency Bell Pott­inger’s Public Affairs. KKR is relying on Finsbury, which it retains for both financial PR and public affairs.

Blackstone is using Iain Anderson’s financial lobbying shop Cicero Consulting – also on a retainer. The Carlyle Group is understood to be using a PA consultancy, but it would not disclose the identity. The private equity firm’s European dir­ector of comms Emma Thorpe said: ‘We are taking advice ahead of the inquiry, but we would rather not say who from.’

3i uses Fleishman-Hillard in Brussels but does not have a retained agency for its UK work, so the firm’s London-based head of investor relations Douwe Cosijn is currently overseeing preparations.

Earlier this week, the sel­ect committee took evidence from the British Private ­Equity and Venture Capital Ass­ociation and the TUC, as the inquiry got underway.

Meanwhile, the Financial Services Authority said this week that it would be investigating a number of concerns it has regarding the growth of private equity-led takeovers. Without naming any specific deals, the FSA said that it would probe issues such as excessive debt and market abuse.

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