Dattels returns to Asia as TPG regional co-head

Former Goldman Sachs banker will work with Ben Gray as fellow co-head, as current Asia head Stephen Peel steps aside from the role.

Few private equity professionals have managed to penetrate Asian tycoons’ inner-circle of friends and advisers in their career — one of them is Tim Dattels.

Dattels came out to Hong Kong in 1996, and as head of investment banking at Goldman Sachs helped steer the firm through the Asian financial crisis. He was also instrumental in forming many of the firm’s core relationships, such as the one with Li Ka-shing, Asia’s richest man. Dattels continues to serve as a director of the Hong Kong-listed hotelier Shangri-La Asia, which is controlled by the Kuok family.

“I’ve always been very focused on the overseas Chinese networks,” said Dattels in an interview with FinanceAsia.

After breaking his neck in a skiing accident he reassessed the world while staring at the ceiling. Following an 18-year career in investment banking he decided to leave Goldman in 2002. In 2003, he became a senior adviser to Newbridge, part of TPG Capital’s family of funds.

Since joining the private equity firm he has worked on such high-profile deals as the continuing sale of a stake in Bank Tabungan Pensiunan Nasional (BTPN) to Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, back to one of the first private equity deals in Vietnam, TPG’s investment in Hanoi-based IT services company FPT in 2006, on which it made 4.5 to 5 times its money. Latterly he was a senior partner for TPG in Asia.

After an arduous commute from San Francisco to Asia for four to five months of the year, he is moving back to Hong Kong to become co-head of TPG Capital in Asia, alongside Ben Gray. Gray has risen quickly at TPG since joining the private equity firm from Credit Suisse about a decade ago to open its Australia office. His responsibilities were broadened to include Japan in 2010, and in 2011 he was asked to become joint managing partner — as a result, he moved from Melbourne
to Singapore.

Gray’s current co-managing partner in Asia, Stephen Peel, will transition into a role likely focused on Russia and Eastern Europe.

Success in SouthEast Asia

For the past three to four years, Dattels has been focused on Southeast Asia, with some notable deals in the region’s largest economy, Indonesia, where few private equity firms have managed to clinch deals.

He founded the Indonesia-focused Northstar Group along with Patrick Walujo and Glenn Sugita, and remains on Northstar’s investment committee.

TPG is in the process of raising about $3.5 billion, according to data providers and investors. So far this year, private equity funds have raised a whopping $28.5 billion, according to researchers at PEI Media, raising concern that too much private equity capital is chasing too few deals in Asia.

“The private equity market is expanding, but the amount of capital that PE has relative to sovereign wealth funds, government reserves, overseas Chinese families and pension funds is tiny,” said Dattels. “So we need to add value either via our relationships, global portfolios or by improving operations.”

Dattels is a director of Blackberry as well as Shangri-La Asia, Asia’s leading hotel brand.  He is also a trustee of the San Francisco Ballet and SF Jazz.

Dattels holds a BA (Honors) from the University of Western Ontario, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

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