TH Lee, Arnault Team Up on Euro Fund –

Sometimes being the biggest just isn’t big enough.

Less than a month after closing the largest private equity vehicle in history, Thomas H. Lee Co. is back in its fund-raising bunker with plans to launch a European mega-fund that could possibly fetch up to $2 billion. The venture is being proposed in conjunction Putnam Capital and Groupe Arnault SA, which is the private holding company of Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive of LVMH Moet Hennessey Louis Vuitton.

The group will not actually begin marketing the fund to investors for a few months, so that a suitable management team can first be put into place.

“TH Lee has always had the right to invest internationally in the large LBO funds, but has never done it because [it] always felt a strong partner on the ground was needed,” said a source familiar with the situation. “The people who get brought on board will be Europeans with strong private equity investment credentials.”

The only person officially on board so far is Richard Trutanic, who will serve as senior managing partner and is currently a senior managing partner with Groupe Arnault. No U.S.-based professionals from TH Lee are expected to join the new team.

The fund is expected to invest only in buyout deals across a diverse variety of industry sectors. Most of the deals will be transacted in conjunction with the $6.1 billion Thomas H. Lee Equity Partners V, whose prospectus included an explicit international investing carve-out of approximately 20%.

A majority of the investments are expected to take place on the Continent itself, although the group does have a London office. The only other announced office is in Paris, although a German office is likely.