The buyout firm headed by Guy Hands, one of Britain’s most prominent financiers, will on Friday name a new chief executive exactly a year after the previous incumbent quit following a bust-up.
Sky News has learnt that Terra Firma Capital Partners, the former owner of care homes giant Four Seasons Health Care, will announce the appointment of Vivek Ahuja as its next boss.
Mr Ahuja, who has worked for Terra Firma as chief financial officer and chief operating officer since 2018, is a former executive at the emerging markets lender Standard Chartered.
According to an internal announcement from Mr Hands which has been seen by Sky News, Mr Ahuja’s “leadership, efficiency and effectiveness have moved the firm in a positive direction”.
“In the midst of the current global crisis, the firm thinks now is the appropriate time for Vivek to step into the role of CEO,” it said.
Terra Firma’s portfolio of assets has shrunk in recent years as it has sold investments in the care homes and industrial sectors.
It still owns Annington Homes, a vast portfolio of residential housing used by the Ministry of Defence, and Welcome Hotels, a hotel chain in Germany.
According to Mr Hands’ memo, Mr Ahuja “will be responsible for the overall leadership of Terra Firma, ensuring clarity and alignment of the firm’s objectives with those of the Hands Family Office, while also managing and optimising the firm’s people and resources”.
An external announcement is to be made on Friday.
The transition will come a year after Andrew Geczy, Terra Firma’s last chief executive, quit after an unspecified dispute with Mr Hands.
The private equity tycoon, who is best-known for his ill-fated ownership of EMI, the record label, has tried several times to raise funds for new acquisitions in recent years, including Cartonplast, a German packaging group.
That takeover was seen as a test of Mr Hands’ ability to finance new acquisitions after he called off plans to raise a general buyout fund, which would have been Terra Firma’s first since it lost control of EMI in 2011.
Mr Hands has begun pursuing takeovers on a so-called deal-by-deal basis, which involves sourcing capital from investors for each specific transaction.
Guernsey-based Mr Hands is one of the most colourful and prominent figures in British finance, having made his fortune devising leveraged buyouts at Nomura, the Japanese bank.
He has been hampered by a number of soured deals and his failure to raise a new private equity fund even as others in the industry have found attracting record-sized capital pools worth many billions of pounds.
In recent years, Terra Firma has generated strong returns from investments including through the €1.3bn disposal of RTR, a solar energy platform.
It has also restructured the finances of Annington, which is expected to be sold in the next couple of years.
The firm has also offloaded Wyevale Garden Centres on a piecemeal basis.
Mr Geczy’s departure was the latest by a string of top-level executives who have either left or scaled back their roles at Mr Hands’ firm.
In December 2018, Justin King, the former boss of J Sainsbury, relinquished his responsibilities for the day-to-day management of Terra Firma.
The appointments of both Mr King and Mr Geczy represented attempts by Mr Hands to repair relations with investors following Terra Firma’s calamitous ownership of EMI.
Despite success in terms of profit growth, the financial crisis and strained relations with Citigroup, EMI’s biggest lender, meant that Terra Firma was unable to refinance its debt.
The Wall Street bank eventually seized control of EMI, sparking a bitter legal battle lasting more than five years which tarnished Mr Hands’s reputation.
Terra Firma declined to comment.