Ammar Al-Hajjar, MBA Class of 2015

On February 28, The Stern Private Equity Club (SPEC) held its Ninth Annual Stern Private Equity Conference at NYU’s Kimmel Center, following a tradition that began in 2006. The sold-out conference this year had a record turnout of more than 400 attendees, and marked a milestone for SPEC, after more than a semester of meticulous planning and coordination on the part of its board, specifically the SPEC Conference Committee Co-Chairs: Javier Gondo, Juliya Rozenfeld, and Lauren Sanders.

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The conference is arguably the largest at Stern and brought together 250 professionals in private equity, as well as 150 students to listen to industry panels led by thought leaders in the field. The SPEC team assembled eight panels this year: Limited Partners & Secondaries, Distressed, Real Estate, Healthcare, Leveraged Buyouts, Energy, Venture & Growth Capital, and Emerging Markets. On the sponsorship side, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Ernst and Young and Citigroup were the Platinum, Gold and Bronze sponsors, respectively, in addition to many other media sponsors.

SPEC Co-President Sikandar Atiq kicked off the conference by welcoming everyone and introducing Dean Peter Henry. Afterwards, Dean Henry gave the opening remarks and introduced the event’s morning keynote, Mr. Tony James, President and Chief Operating Officer at Blackstone. Mr. James was interviewed by Professor Gustavo Schwed, Adjunct Professor of Finance at NYU Stern School of Business. The morning discussion provided tremendous insight into the private equity industry and focused on recent trends as well as global investment opportunities.

Following the morning keynote, the conference began with the Limited Partners & Secondaries panel which was moderated by Andrea Kramer, Managing Director at Hamilton Lane. This panel featured prominent panelists from Landmark Partners, AlpInvest Partners, and Coller Capital. The discussion covered the complex issues that arise in seeking strong returns, and how to address the macroeconomic conditions and the competitive landscape in the market.

Concurrently, the Distressed panel was moderated by Stuart Kovensky, Co-Founder of Onex Credit Partners and was attended by senior partners and directors from Moelis & Company, Golub Capital, and Hudson Bay Absolute Return Credit Opportunities Fund. The panelists shared their views on current environment for finding new opportunities for distressed investments and the industries that are and potentially will provide these opportunities going forward. They also pointed out that last real cycle began five years back and shared their thoughts on the timing and catalyst for the next cycle.

Subsequently, Jennifer Morgan, Partner at Kirkland & Ellis, led the Real Estate Panel. The panel featured attendees from Apollo Global Management, Angelo Gordon & Co., Corigin Real Estate Group, and Dune Real Estate Partners. The panelists pointed out the unique environment for real estate investors since the sector is still recovering. Opportunities are arising in emerging markets and there is an imbalance between supply and demand. They stressed the need for investors to be flexible in their investments and wait for opportunities in a relative value context and ask themselves questions.

In the Healthcare panel moderated by Sergio A. Urias, Partner at Kirkland & Ellis, the focus was on attractive subsectors of the Healthcare industry. The panel included partners and directors from MPM Capital, New Leaf Ventures, NGN Capital, and Balfour Venture Partners. The panel focused on the risk profile of the sector and the exit climate for portfolio companies given the recent increase M&A activity.

The four morning panels were followed by a networking lunch session and two subsequent lunch keynote speakers, Olivier Sarkozy, Head the Global Financial Services Group at Carlyle Group, and Scott Higbee, Head of Partners Group’s New York office. Mr. Sarkozy, who was introduced by SPEC Conference Co-Chair Lauren Sanders, shared insights from his career and the thought process behind recent transactions he has led in the financial institutions industry. Later, Mr. Higbee, who was introduced by SPEC Co-President Zoe Nourallah, explained the main drivers of Private Equity and discussed the key factors of a successful career in success factors in the industry.

The afternoon featured four panels – Leveraged Buyouts, Energy, Venture & Growth Capital, and Emerging Markets.

The Leveraged Buyouts (LBO) panel was moderated by Markus Bolsinger, Partner at Kirkland & Ellis and featured Emilio S. Pedroni, Managing Director at First Atlantic Capital; Justin Bateman, Senior Partner at BC Partners; Lloyd M. Metz, Managing Director at ICV Capital Partners; and Luis Zaldivar, Managing Director at Palladium Equity Partners. They shared their experiences in the industry and provided valuable insight into their firms, the LBO market and career advice for those looking to enter Private Equity after business school. Other key topics included current trends in investing, availability of credit, leverage levels and the fundraising outlook.
Concurrently, Deborah Byers, Managing Partner at EY’s Houston Office, moderated the Energy panel. The panel included speakers from Starwood Energy Group, Cadent Energy Partners, the Carlyle Group, and White Deer Energy. The discussion was focused on the opportunities and challenges presented to investors by energy companies. It went in-depth into how new ventures are very capital intensive, have longer time horizons and rely on technologies that are unproven on a commercial scale.

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Subsequently, the Venture and Growth Capital panel was moderated by Zeev Klein, Partner at Landmark Ventures, and featured prominent panelists from Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, W Capital Partners, Spark Capital, and BDMI – Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments. Before a packed audience, the panel brought fresh insight on the opportunities and challenges of investing in the venture capital industry. They also discussed how firms can help portfolio companies in creating value and implement industry best practices.

Finally, the Emerging Markets panel was moderated by Jeff Bunder, Global Private Equity Leader at EY and featured panelists across a wide range of firms and geographies such as OPIC, IFC, Dirigo Advisors, and Goldman Sachs. Key takeaways included that investment in emerging markets are driven by growth and efficiency rather than leverage, and how a slow economic recovery and a European debt crisis has forced investors to realign their strategies toward Emerging Markets. The big question is whether this shift in asset allocation can lead to sustainable growth.

The day was capped by SPEC Co-President Sikandar Atiq who introduced the closing keynote speaker Mark Davis, Founder of Interplay Ventures. Mr. Davis provided a strong presentation on the trends and provided great insight to students about how to break into the venture capital industry. After the closing keynote, Juliya Rozenfled, SPEC Conference Co-Chair, delivered the closing remarks for the conference and invited the attendees and participants to a networking reception at the picturesque Rosenthal Pavilion on the 10th floor of the Kimmel Center.

With a record turnout of over 400 attendees, 42 panelists and keynote speakers from some of the most prestigious firms in the industry, and eight thematic panels, the Ninth Annual Private Equity Conference was a success and a major milestone in SPEC’s history. The Stern Private Equity Conference committee was led by SPEC Co-Presidents Sikandar Atiq and Zoe Nourallah and Conference Co-Chairs Javier Gondo, Juliya Rozenfeld, and Lauren Sanders. The Conference committee and SPEC board worked diligently to make the event a great success for the club and included Ammar Al-Hajjar, Daniel Del Rio, Darien Sutton-Ramsey, Mark Lansman, Robert Carper, Siddharth Agarwal, Stefano Gamba, Thomas Viscelli, Varun Harwani, Jared O’Connor, Vincent Lescure, Oliver Yang, Sean Liu, Neerav Bagaria, Vijay Aiyar, Wonki Cho, Dane Kmetz, Samuel Zinkan, David Friedman, Zubin Nagpal, and Paul Cognetti. The event provided a valuable opportunity to many students to gather insights from senior industry professionals and thought leaders, as well as network with private equity professionals. Furthermore, the SPEC board received several congratulatory emails from the Stern alumni, as well as from Dean Peter Henry.

For more information on the Stern Private Equity Club and its upcoming events, please visit www.stern.nyu.edu/~spec/.

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