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Cygnus Capital launches

Lance Whitehead has left his private equity placement role at Dresdner Kleinwort Capital (DKC) to set up Cygnus Capital. At DKC Whitehead mainly raised funds for the firm’s many in-house private equity and venture capital funds, to which Dresdner typically committed 20 per cent of the fund’s total value.

Once Allianz took over Dresdner the decision was taken to lose the placement team but with three of the bank’s funds entering into fund raising mode Whitehead decided to spin out, with DKC’s support.

For the time being Whitehead is Cygnus Capital, a firm he named after the swan constellation prompted by working for some time in Swan Lane in the City of London. Colleagues from DKC’s placement team, which comprised eight individuals, may join Cygnus and Whitehead is in talks with a number of experienced placement agents who are considering moving from investment banks into the independent sphere. A fluent Arabic and not-so-fluent German speaker Whitehead would ideally like someone with experience of non-German speaking Europe.

Whitehead started working as a placement agent in the Middle East because he can speak Arabic. In Bahrain in the mid 1990s he worked for Bank Indosuez using its distribution network he organised road shows and helped to manage relationships once they were forged. When Bank Indosuez was acquired by Credit Agricole a broking job at Merrill Lynch beckoned but some direct fund raising for Perella Wasserstein preceded this.

Eventually he found himself at DKC with a mandate to help the bank break into the Middle East, and then the German-speaking beat when some colleagues left the bank.

Cygnus has signed two mandates – one for US Energy Investors and the other for Kleinwort Capital, which span out of DKC shortly before Whitehead. His Middle East contacts have also resulted in various approaches to tail end a Middle East element to otherwise fully raised funds.