Nervous in the Netherlands

The Dutch central bank is keeping a close eye on alternative investment firms.

Private equity is not exactly on the run in the Netherlands, but practitioners could nonetheless be forgiven for casting an anxious glance or two over their shoulders.

Toward the end of February, De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB), the Dutch central bank, said it was drawing up ?guiding principles? to help financial institutions with the risk management of private equity and other alternative investments.

On the face of it, the announcement was innocuous enough. The DNB insisted that its proposals would not take the form of a ?checklist? with specific compliance demands. Instead, it billed them as merely useful guidance, with ?points of interest and best practices?.

Nonetheless, private equity firms may have taken fright a little at the accompanying comments: ?The DNB is concerned that private equity funds are not under any direct supervision, which can make it harder for institutions to obtain an overview of the performance assumptions and the risk profile of investments.?

Those familiar with a prior document from the DNB?its semi-annual ?Overview of Financial Stability in the Netherlands?, published in September 2006?may have been even more worried. In the back of their minds, they would still have had the DNB's warning in that report that ?private equity offers benefits, but also gives rise to risks?.

In a similar vein to concerns expressed by the Financial Services Authority in the UK, the DNB warned that leveraged buyouts were causing financial instability by creating ?greater corporate indebtedness? and ?greater interest rate sensitivity?. It said it would ?closely monitor developments in this leveraged buyout market?.

If this wasn't enough, the DNB recently displayed its capacity for intervention against alternatives firms amid a row over the future of Dutch bank ABN AMRO. Hedge fund shareholders in the bank, including the UK's The Children's Investment Fund (TCI), have been agitating for a break-up of the bank.

The DNB issued a letter expressing concern at TCI's actions and claiming that the bank represented broad public interests protected by law. The European Commission in turn reprimanded the DNB's intervention, saying that it should limit itself to its supervisory role and not participate in discussions of ABN AMRO's future.

Whether the DNB retreats from that debate remains to be seen, but for Dutch private equity the message is clear: this is one organisation not afraid to speak out against the activities of alternative investors. More may be heard from it in future.

VSS Mezz Pro becomes CFO at talent group
Errol Antzis has left his position as co-manager and principal at VSS Mezzanine Partners, a private equity firm that focuses on investments in media and entertainment companies, to join entertainment firm Metropolitan Talent as chief financial officer and member of the board of directors of the company. As CFO, Antzis will oversee Metropolitan's finances, strategic planning and implementation of new business initiatives. Antzis, who has over 25 years of investment banking experience, was instrumental in arranging and closing Metropolitan's recent strategic partnership with Plainfield Asset Management, which gave the company access to significant capital for its concert, record label and talent management divisions, as well as a planned expansion into new business areas. Antzis currently owns a music magazine publishing company, PPV Media, and a recording studio in New York City. Metropolitan's concert division was recently the tour producer of Australian band INXS' North American Tour. Other divisions include artist management and an independent record label called Hybrid Recordings.

Welsh Carson welcomes Ecock as operator
New York-based private equity firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe announced that it has named Anthony Ecock as its new senior operating executive. He will be responsible for initiatives to enhance the growth and performance of the firm's portfolio companies in the healthcare sector, and identifying business opportunities and trends. Ecock was previously vice president and general manager of the enterprise clients group of General Electric Healthcare, a $15 billion unit of General Electric, for three years. Prior to joing GE, Ecock was senior vice president and general manager of the patient monitoring and clinical information systems division of medical equipment manufacturer Philips Medical Systems. From 1987 to 1999, Ecock worked at consulting firm Bain & Company, where he became a partner in 1993. Since 1979, Welsh Carson has organized 14 limited partnerships with total capital of over $16 billion, and invested in more than 165 companies and 700 follow-on acquisitions. It is currently investing over $4.7 billion of capital from its tenth private equity fund and WCAS Capital Partners IV, a dedicated subordinated debt fund.