Emmanuelle Vaudoyer

AXA Private Equity general counsel Emmanuelle Vaudoyer disusses the challenges and opportunities of working at a growing firm

EXPANDING THE TEAM: When former Clifford Chance attorney Emmanuelle Vaudoyer joined AXA Private Equity in 2003, she was one of just three lawyers at the firm. “Now I head a strong international team of 10 lawyers,” she says. “That's a big change.” The growth of the firm's legal team reflects the increasing number of large and complex deals and fund sizes, which was just what Vaudoyer was hoping for when she decided to join. “I wanted to contribute to deals, and AXA Private Equity was one of the top private equity houses in France and Europe.” The private equity arm of French insurer AXA has grown to managing more than $27 billion in assets under management, with offices in Paris, London, Frankfurt, Milan, Zurich, New York and Singapore.

FOCUSING ON THE ESSENTIALS: There is no shortage of work on the legal side as AXA Private Equity is active across the spectrum, including fund of funds, small- and mid-cap buyouts, venture capital, coinvestment, expansion capital and mezzanine, although some areas require more focus than others. “Although our legal team works on AXA Private Equity's venture capital and infrastructure deals, our main area of focus is advising on the legalities of the formation of funds in countries such as France, the UK, Luxembourg and Ireland, as well handling the legal aspects of running AXA Private Equity,” Vaudoyer said. AXA Private Equity recently raised $2.4 billion for its fourth buyout fund, a big step up from the previous fund's $500 million close, and is looking to invest in Germany, France and Italy, as well as in companies which are looking to develop business in the Asia region.

ACROSS THE BORDERS: Among the firm's acquisitions in 2008 have been French B2B information provider Altares and German arcade games operator Lowen Play. The firm's international scope makes it increasingly important for its lawyers to have experience in both the industry as well as in foreign markets. “We look for experience in private equity but also in corporate law and/or fund set-up, and experience working with other jurisdictions is critical as we are always liaising with other lawyers around the world,” Vaudoyer says. AXA Private Equity continues to broaden its horizons with the recent opening of a seventh office in Zurich to capitalise on investment opportunities in the Swiss market. As the amount of work has gone up so has the need for the legal team to ensure that everyone is kept up to date on all activities. “We are consistent in our communications; we keep in touch with our senior lawyers, have weekly meetings to discuss works in progress and monthly meetings with the head of each area of expertise within AXA Private Equity.”