SIR Peter Paul Rubens’ beautiful and ornate painted ceiling gazed down upon the most successful figures in the private equity industry last night, as they gathered in the Banqueting Hall on Whitehall for the Private Equity News Awards for Excellence in Private Equity.

Executives from the likes of CVC Capital Partners, Axa Private Equity, Coller Capital, Blackstone and Advent International filed up to the stage to collect their gongs, though the most prestigious of the night – the “Hall of Fame” award – went to the jovial Ian Armitage, boss of HgCapital.

Armitage has certainly stamped his character on the firm since he joined 22 years ago – his employees apparently told the judges they sometimes “wish they could throw him under a bus” for how hard he works them, but would gladly “take a bullet” for their leader if necessary.

What’s more, all the management figures have nicknames, including the top dog himself, who chuckles merrily as he displays a text message from a colleague addressed to “Fat Man”. Now there’s a true man of the people for you.

As is usually the way with these events, the organisers had the ill fortune to time their extravaganza to coincide with the crucial Premier League clash between Tottenham and Arsenal, though The Capitalist doubts that was the reason for two conspicuous absences from the evening.

Private equity veteran Jon Moulton was nominated in the personality of the year category after sensationally quitting Alchemy Partners last year and setting up a new venture, Better Capital. And ironically, both Better Capital and Alchemy were nominated for the investor relations award – the former for its successful launch and the latter for “handling the departure of its founder with grace”.

Neither took home the prize, which went to the aforementioned HgCapital, though perhaps it was the prospect of an awkward reunion that kept both the usually gregarious Moulton and Alchemy boss Dominic Slade – his former protégé until relations between the pair soured – well away from the event…

Speaking of personalities, that coveted gong ended up in the hands of Jonathan Russell, head of buyouts at 3i. Russell last year managed to fit in a mountain of work for the European Private Equity and Venture Capital Association around his day job – no mean feat given the weight of the proposed damaging EU legislation against the industry.

Dominique Senequier, the chief executive of Axa Private Equity, was named the most influential woman in the industry, while Index Ventures partner Saul Klein was judged most promising rising star.

But the most entertaining acceptance of the night came from Xavier Moreno, chairman of French firm Astorg Partners, who ignored pleas from the organisers and ploughed ahead with a lengthy tribute to French rugby. That’s the spirit.