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SVG Says Ferguson to Retire as Chairman Amid Strategy Shift

Nicholas Ferguson, who triggered a political firestorm when he questioned dealmakers for paying less tax than their cleaners, will step down as chairman of Permira Advisers LLP’s biggest investor.

Ferguson, 63, will retire from publicly traded investment firm SVG Capital Plc by the end of this year, the London-based company said in a statement today. The board hasn’t named a successor.

In June 2007, at the height of the buyout boom, Ferguson used an interview in the Financial Times to ask why dealmakers paid capital-gains tax of less than 10 percent when their cleaners paid a higher tax rate. His comments stoked criticism of tax policy by labor unions and lawmakers. Later that year, the government almost doubled the levy dealmakers pay when selling investments.

“With the company now on a solid financial footing and the foundations for the proposed new strategy laid, it is the right time to do so and for a new chairman to oversee the implementation of the new strategy,” Ferguson said of his retirement in the statement.

SVG, which was formerly known as Schroder Ventures International Investment Trust Plc, mainly invests in buyout and venture capital funds run by Permira, previously called Schroder Ventures Europe. SVG, headed by Chief Executive Officer Lynn Fordham, said in December it will widen its range of investments to include other leveraged buyout firms.

Strategic Shift

The changes are part of strategic shift the company has undertaken since the financial crisis. Three months after the September 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., SVG cut pledged investments in Permira by more than half. In February 2009, SVG raised 171.3 million pounds ($267.7 million) in a share sale, and the following month it said the value of its investments dropped by two-thirds the previous year. Fordham was appointed CEO in May 2009.

Permira is seeking 6.5 billion euros for buyouts, 41 percent less than it initially raised for its previous fund, according to marketing document obtained by Bloomberg News.

Stephen Duckett, former managing director at San Francisco-based buyout firm Hellman & Friedman LLC, will join the board following the shareholders’ meeting later this month, SVG also said today. Board directors Edgar Koning, Denis Raeburn and Francis Finlay will retire at the end of this year, it said. Koning and Ferguson have been on the board since 1996. Ferguson became chairman in 2005 after serving as CEO from 2001 to 2005.

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