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On beyond Bridgepoint

A NEW CFO HAS TAKEN THE HELM AT UK MID-MARKET MAINSTAY BRIDGEPOINT

There's nothing like going out on a high. And that is what Mark Harford did when his departure as CFO and partner atUK mid-market buyout investor Bridgepoint coincided with the firm's closing of a new €2.5 billion ($3.1 billion) fund earlier this year.

After a spell in industry at leisure and hotels group Bass (now Intercontinental Hotels Group/Mitchells & Butler), Harford became CFO of Brainspark, the London-based technology venture capitalist, in July 2000. Just nine months later, and after cutbacks at Brainspark resulting from the tech decline, Harford was on his way to Bridgepoint.

When he arrived, Bridgepoint was investing its first pan-European fund, which it had closed on €2 billion the previous year. That fund is now understood to be around 80 percent invested in around 25 companies including petproducts retailer Pets at Home and health club operator Virgin Active.

The latest fund, closed in July, was capped at €2.5 billion, having reportedly received demand for as much as €3.5 billion. Investors in the fund include Calpers, Washington State, New York State, BP and Wellcome Trust. Investors may well have been attracted by Bridgepoint's impressive rate of distributions. In 2004, it returned more than €700 million to investors from deals including the £350 million sale of IMO Car Wash, which generated a reported three times cash multiple.

Meeting the demands of a wide-ranging and sophisticated investor base is the task now entrusted to new CFO and partner Raoul Hughes. Hughes joined NatWest Group in 1987 and transferred to its private equity arm Bridgepoint – then known as NatWest Equity Partners – the following year.

A graduate of the University of Bath and a member of the Society of Turnaround Professionals, Hughes' current board seats include Concentric, an automotive product designer and manufacturer; JDR Cables, a manufacturer of specialist offshore cables and control lines; and Worldmark, a data label systems business.

At press time, no information was available regarding Harford's future plans.