EXOR Decides to Exit U.S. & Asian Offices –

EXOR Group, the powerful, family-owned Italian private equity firm that has been quietly investing in American industry since 1974, is shuttering its Stateside operations to focus on opportunities in Europe.

The group also will be closing EXOR Asia Ltd., its Hong Kong-based investment arm.

According to a source close to EXOR America, based in New York, the firm will pull in its shingle in three to six months.

As little as two years ago, EXOR America had seven professionals and $2 billion at its disposal to invest in buyouts. Today, Andrea Botto, the president, is the sole professional at the firm and has been liquidating the firm’s assets for more than a year. Mr. Botto declined comment for this article.

The source said the closing was not related to the performance of EXOR America’s portfolio or to EXOR Group’s outlook on the U.S. private equity market. He said EXOR Group now will focus exclusively on industrial opportunities in Europe.

EXOR Group, a company listed on the Luxembourg stock exchange, invests the wealth of the Turin, Italy-based Agnelli family, which owns the largest block of shares-30%-in automaker Fiat SpA. One former employee of EXOR America said the Agnelli family may be repatriating capital to Italy to help Fiat emerge victorious in the rounds of industry consolidation currently embroiling Europe. At a March 10 meeting in Turin, Agnelli family patriarch Giovanni Agnelli said he thought Fiat was too small, and that the company needed to keep its “eyes open to all opportunities,” the source said.

Other sources said the Agnelli family, with a reputation for very conservative investment strategies, was leaving because they found valuations in the U.S. to be too rich. If this is the case, EXOR Group is part of a recent overall trend that has seen increasing amounts of private equity money head to Europe in search of better deals among the impending consolidation and divestiture opportunities.

EXOR America and EXOR Asia were two of three investment arms of the Agnelli family, including the Paris-based EXOR S.A.

A source confirmed that the Paris office of the EXOR Group will continue operations, but declined to comment further.

Executives from EXOR Group’s home office in Turin did not return calls.

EXOR Group began investing in the U.S. in the mid-1970s under the name IFINT – USA (the firm changed its name to EXOR America in 1994), completing mostly industrial buyouts.

One of the more well-known deals EXOR America landed in this decade is its $400 million acquisition of Constitution Re Corp., a subsidiary of Xeorox Financial Services, in 1995. That same year, EXOR America, through its subsidiary FIMA Finance Management, teamed with Clayton, Dubilier & Rice in the $2.8 billion buyout of paperboard package manufacturer Riverwood International (BUYOUTS Nov. 6, 1995, p. 1). EXOR America committed approximately $225 million to the transaction.

EXOR Ex-Pats Populate LBO World

EXOR America has served as a training ground for some of the buyout world’s more well-known professionals. Alberto Cribiore, who recently founded Brera Capital Partners after having worked at Clayton Dubilier for 12 years, was one of the founders of the New York office. He left EXOR America in 1982. In 1986, Andrea Geisser left to join Fenway Partners, where he is currently a managing director. Greg Feldman, a managing partner at Wellspring Capital Management L.L.C., left EXOR America in 1995. More recent EXOR America graduates include Steven O’Connell, a managing director at Wasserstein Perella & Co., Joseph Haviv, a managing director at First Atlantic Capital, and David Yuri, a vice president at The Jordan Co.