2 ex-Citi officials start equity firm

The Baltimore Sun

NEW YORK -- Two former Citigroup Inc. executives announced yesterday that they have formed Brysam Global Partners, a private equity firm that will buy consumer financial services companies in emerging markets.

The New York company's founders are Robert B. Willumstad, former president of Citigroup, and Marge Magner, who once headed the banking firm's global consumer unit. Brysam Global expects investment partners such as Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Carlyle Group.

"There is significant demand for operating talent as there is a lot of money around chasing deals" said Willumstad, 61. "There are few people around who can manage at a grass-roots level such as us, as well as assess acquisitions."

Buyout funds raised a record $204 billion worldwide in 2006, including $10.8 billion for Asia alone, according to research firm Private Equity Intelligence Ltd. in London. Countries that Brysam will target include China, India, Brazil, Mexico and Russia.

After Willumstad quit Citigroup in 2005, saying he wanted to run his own company, he was approached by KKR, Carlyle and Blackstone Group LP to help advise them on investments. Two years earlier Willumstad had been passed over as chief executive officer when Charles O. Prince III got the job.

Willumstad ran Citigroup's consumer business, including retail banking and credit cards, after Citicorp's 1998 merger with Travelers Group Inc., and had overseen Citigroup's consumer operations in Western Europe, Japan and Mexico. He became Citi's president in 2002.

Last year, he was named nonexecutive chairman of American International Group Inc., the world's largest insurer. To avoid conflicts, Brysam won't invest in insurance companies, The Wall Street Journal reported, adding that the new firm has raised about $1 billion.

Willumstad declined to comment yesterday on fundraising.

Magner, 57, worked at Citigroup for almost 20 years, leaving in 2005 - the same year as Willumstad - after running a division that accounted for 58 percent of the bank's revenue in the first half of that year.

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