3i’s Asia chairman to retire(3)

Chris Rowlands' decision to leave 3i is the latest in a series of senior management changes at the global firm. Rowlands has spent 17 of the past 25 years working for 3i, and twice has been considered by market insiders as a contender for the CEO role.

Chris Rowlands, chairman of 3i Asia, is to retire, according to a source close to the firm.

3i declined to comment.

Rowlands first joined 3i in 1984, though he left in 1996 and returned in 2002. He is a member of the firm’s management committee and has worked on deals including Little Sheep, DPhone, Joyon Southside, ACR, Welspun Gujarat, Clinica Baviera and Foster and Partners.

His departure will follow the appointment of Singapore-based Anil Ahuja as head of 3i Asia in January. Ahuja, formerly co-head of 3i Asia alongside Mark Thornton, was promoted to lead 3i’s investment teams in Asia and work alongside the firm’s local business heads in China, India and Singapore.

Details are not yet known about the timing of Rowlands’ departure – nor his rationale and future plans – although its revelation comes on the back of tumultuous times for the London-listed private equity firm.

In January, after a series of write-downs, redundancies and share price tumbles, chief executive Philip Yea resigned. He had been in the role for less than four years. Yea was replaced by infrastructure head Michael Queen, although Rowlands was among the names discussed in the industry at the time as a potential candidate for the role – as he was in 2004 before Yea was hired to replace outgoing chief Brian Larcombe. In the 2004 management shuffle, Queen took over as head of growth capital from Rowlands, who was given a newly created role of head of growth markets. Rowlands relocated to Singapore in 2007 to become responsible for 3i’s Asian operations. [Click below to see an emerging markets-focused interview PEO did with Rowlands in late 2008.]

3i’s share price volatility has failed to stabilise since Queen took the top spot and earlier this month the troubled firm lost its place in the FTSE 100 share index. At press time 3i had a market capitalisation of £993 million and was trading at 258 pence per share, down roughly 73 percent from its 52-week high of 966 pence per share.

In Asia, the decision to cut 15 percent of its global workforce in a cost cutting exercise saw the firm close its Hong Kong and Shanghai offices in January, relocating its China dealmakers to the Beijing office.

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