David Darmon, Group Deputy CEO
Tell us about your career so far at Wendel.
DD. I joined Wendel in 2005. Over the past 14 years, I have become well acquainted with the Group and its governance. I have held positions in France and abroad, in investment roles and in support of the Supervisory Board. As a member of the investment team, I took part either in the acquisition, performance monitoring or sale of numerous fast-growing companies, such as Deutsch, CSP Technologies, Allied Universal, Crisis Prevention Institute and Stallergenes. I worked closely with Stéphanie Besnier on the launch of Wendel Lab, involving several investments in funds managed by the US-based Innovation Endeavors team.
In 2013, I went to the United States to open Wendel’s New York office. Even though we had already realized a particularly successful, initial investment in the country (Deutsch in 2006), the very competitive nature of the US investment market made this a real challenge.
I gradually recruited a team of highly talented professionals. Adam Reinmann, now CEO of our New York office, is among those who came on board. Since opening an office in the United States, Wendel has invested more than $1.5 billion there.
How do you see the US market? What are Wendel’s strengths there?
DD. The most amazing thing about the US market is its depth, be it in the number of transactions or the diversity of the companies active there. The United States is the world’s most developed investment market, and competition is therefore very high. In six years, Wendel has made a name for itself in North America. Leveraging our expertise, we have successfully closed several transactions. We have formed lasting partnerships with the management of the companies we have acquired and have stepped up value-creating investment—R&D and growth-oriented capex—over the long term. In this way, we have supported ambitious entrepreneurs, providing them with significant equity to carry out acquisitions and explore new horizons for their growth and development. Over a four-year period, for example, we supported the rise of North America’s new leader in security services. With backing from Wendel, Steve Jones, CEO of Allied Universal, was able to invest heavily in the development of technological solutions while consolidating the industry through a dozen acquisitions. Two of these transactions totaled more than a billion dollars each. We received $721 million for the sale of part of our stake, while remaining an investor in Allied Universal and maintaining a seat on its board of directors for the coming years.
What are your goals for Wendel?
DD. We aim to have a portfolio of sound, healthy and high-performing companies, in line with our long-term investment values. André François-Poncet and I place particular importance in making high-quality investments that offer both a favorable growth outlook and a certain resistance to cyclical downturns, while also contributing to improving the quality of life and protecting our environment. The recent acquisition of Crisis Prevention Institute dovetails with this objective. We also believe that we must make a full commitment to the management teams of the companies in which we invest if we are to create value over the long term. We see ourselves as a trusted partner for our companies as well as for our shareholders.
Credits: Henrike Stahl