Fred Hu, former Goldman rainmaker extraordinaire, now runs one of the most exciting names in Chinese investment. He explains to Euromoney what makes Primavera Capital different and what the trade war means for business.
A decade ago, Fred Hu was the consummate Goldman Sachs rainmaker. As China head of investment banking, he was responsible for delivering some of the deals that placed Goldman at the pinnacle of the industry at that time.
Goldman staff still talk about many of them today, like the billions the bank made on its private equity stake in ICBC ahead of its October 2006 IPO and its co-sponsor role on the Bank of China international listing the same year. For top-tier clients, such as Ping An and Bank of Communications, Hu was the point man with the relationships and the ability to talk them into doing business with him.
It is no surprise that he eventually opted to go it alone, founding Primavera Capital in Beijing in 2010. Alongside him as partners were several other Goldman alumni: Haitao Zhai, a former managing director responsible for Goldman’s relationships with many governmental and financial institutions on the mainland, as well as director of the office for cooperation with ICBC; Kenneth Wong, another managing director in the investment banking division; and William Wang, who was an MD in the principal investment team.
Between them they have built one of the most important, powerful and quiet private investment firms on the mainland. It is part of that growing constituency, whose other members include Hillhouse Capital, CDH Investments, Hopu Investment Management and, perhaps, Ping An. Mainland private capital is arguably the most interesting bloc of capital in the world today.
Primavera’s rise has been achieved without bombast and certainly without much public disclosure of its size, outlook or even its approach. Even relative to its modest peer group, one hears very little about Primavera or Hu. But people who have worked with him think of him very highly.
“He’s a force of nature,” says one who worked with him at Goldman. “He’s made a huge success of himself. He’s a supreme networker. In an industry full of smart people, he still stands out as a really smart guy.