Pantheon senior partner retires

Carol Kennedy, senior partner at Pantheon Ventures, has called time on a 22 year career at the fund of funds manager and will focus on charitable work in her retirement.

UK-headquartered Pantheon Ventures has bid farewell to one of its longest-serving executives. Carol Kennedy, who joined the firm in 1990, retired from the firm in December after an illustrious career in private equity.

Carol Kennedy

Kennedy was instrumental in Pantheon’s growth, rising to become a managing partner. She also sat on the firm's global infrastructure and international investment committees.

The firm, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, has grown assets under management from £200 million ($316 million; €241 million) when she joined in 1990 to more than $24 billion today, with headcount rising more than ten-fold, she said.

Prior to joining Pantheon, she worked for four years at Prudential Venture Managers making direct private equity investments with a focus on continental Europe. Her career after a degree in chemical engineering at Birmingham University began at Procter & Gamble before a move to private equity in 1983.

Speaking exclusively to Private Equity International, Kennedy said the industry had changed enormously during her time at Pantheon. “Private equity was a very small asset class when I started out – a quiet resource. Back then, everyone knew each other and it was great fun as a result. But it was also very inwards-looking. It’s come a long way since then. One thing that hasn’t changed from Pantheon’s perspective however is its focus on people – from investors to our own personnel and the managers we back.”

Bringing responsible investment centre stage and integrating it at every stage of the investment process has been a big achievement

Kennedy has been at the forefront of moves to promote responsible and sustainable investment practices. “It’s been a hobby-horse of mine, but bringing responsible investment centre stage and integrating it at every stage of the investment process has been a big achievement. The chief executive of a large oil company once told me private equity couldn’t afford to embrace sustainable development as it was called back then. I told him we couldn’t afford not to.”

Asked to single out some high and low points, Kennedy deftly dodges the question. “One of the pleasing things about working in this industry has been the way it has found ways to deliver returns when everyone else is down. There are some very clever people in this industry, who have gone where angels fear to tread and done very well as a result.”

She has also been instrumental in developing Pantheon’s infrastructure practice – “I’m delighted the government has recognised the importance of private capital investing in infrastructure,” she comments.

As chair of the European Private Equity and Venture Capital Association’s working group on communications [one of many trade body posts she has held over the years], she has also witnessed first-hand the difficulty of promoting the industry’s accomplishments to a wider audience.

There are some very clever people in this industry, who have gone where angels fear to tread and done very well as a result

Politicians in particular have been a cause of frustration, she says. “I remember having lunch with some MPs who didn’t understand the difference in remuneration structures between hedge funds and private equity,” she recalls. Some European politicians, she says, were “wilfully ignorant” of the distinctions between the asset classes.

In her retirement, Kennedy plans to apply the same restless energy to charitable work. “I’ve always liked the concept of leverage so I’ll be looking outside the box a bit at ways to match charitable contributions with additional capital,” she says. 

She plans to continue to work with charities including the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and the Children’s Society, and others which help young people achieve their potential. She also plans to indulge her passion for walking, music and opera and spend more time with her husband of 37 years.