Hands steps down

While retaining the chairmanship of the group, Hands passed the responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the business to Tim Pryce, a founding member of the firm, who took on the role of CEO. Pryce is a member of Terra Firma’s investment advisory and remuneration committees as well as formerly being the firm’s general counsel.

The move is intended to free up Hands to “focus on Terra Firma’s investments, investors and the strategic development of its business internationally”, according to Terra Firma’s press release.

The London-based buyout group revealed in its 2008 annual report that it had been forced to write down substantially the value of two of its investments by €1.365bn, the bulk of which, according to sources, was attributed to EMI, the music group it acquired in June 2007 for £4bn. Hands had been criticised for paying too much for EMI, so will be keen to prove to both investors and detractors that there is still money to be made.

Despite the change in title, few doubt that Hands will relinquish control of the business or that key decisions regarding the direction of the firm will still be his for the taking. Having handed the bulk of the administrative tasks over to Pryce though, Hands should in theory have the luxury of a little more time to nurse an ailing investment portfolio back to health.

In separate news, the buyout group also recently announced the acquisition of Australian billionaire James Packer’s 90% interest in Consolidated Pastoral Company, Australia’s second largest beef producer.

Although no financial details of the deal were disclosed, it is thought that Terra Firma could have paid around A$425m for the stake in CPC, with Rabobank providing the financing.

Reports suggest that Packer’s gaming interests, built up since selling his publishing and broadcasting media arm to CVC Capital and its Asian subsidiary for US$3.36bn in 2006, have been impacted by the economic climate, prompting the decision to sell the CPC stake.

The outstanding 10% in CPC is held by Ken Warriner, CPC’s chief executive.