John O’Connor has left JPMorgan Partners, but he did not go quietly.
The bombastic partner had been engaged in breakup talks for months, but seemed caught off guard earlier this year when told that he should pack up his office and leave the bank’s New York headquarters for good. Not one to take ultimatums lightly, O’Connor began shouting in the hallways and even is said to have thrown some objects out of his office. Things got so heated that building security was called in, and junior employees were given the rest of the day off.
“It happened in the evening, so most of the people there were junior people,” said a person who witnessed the situation. “The senior people felt that [O’Connor] was using the junior people as his audience, and that he might stop making such a scene if he didn’t have that audience.”
John O’Connor was traveling in Florida last week, and declined to comment on his departure. JPMP also declined to comment, citing confidentiality concerns.
Sources familiar with the situation, however, say that O’Connor’s break with JPMP was a long time coming. He had been with the firm in its various incarnations for 17 years, and most recently was active in its mezzanine debt practice and served on the investment committee of Octagon Credit Investors, which provides leveraged loans and high-yield securities.
Such activities were lauded in the 1990s when JPMP (then Chase Capital Partners) was trying to corner every inch of the private equity market. But a shift came by early 2002, when JPMP was struggling to raise its first third-party fund. The original fund size target was an obscene $13 billion, and prospective limited partners accused JPMP of lacking focus. The group’s response was to re-center its investment strategy around buyouts, with a smaller concentration on venture capital. Mezzanine and Octagon would remain, but in far diminished capacities.
“John basically had no mission anymore,” explained a former JPMP employee. “Everything had either been reassigned or just wasn’t considered very important anymore.”
Other JPMP Changes
John O’Connor is not the only JPMP partner to have left recently, although he is the only one known to have done so on bad terms.
Mitchell Blutt, once thought to be in line to succeed managing partner Jeffrey Walker, is now serving in a part-time executive advisor role. His official retirement dinner was held last week, although he began reducing his workload nearly one year ago. Blutt is maintaining three JPMP board seats and is regularly consulted by Walker on firm management issues. He did not return a message requesting comment on this story.
Other imminent-and voluntary – departures at the partnership level include Andrew Kahn and Bob Ruggiero, while principal Kevin O’Brien also plans to leave.
JPMP will continue to be overseen by its Group of Ten, which replaced an earlier management structure that listed Walker up top, with O’Connor, Blutt and Arnie Chavkin as executive partners. The Group of Ten now includes Walker and partners Chavkin, Chris Behrens, Michael Hannon, Jonathan Meggs, Stephen Murray, Tim Purcell, Shahan Soghikian and Timothy Walsh.