Queen’s reign over after 25 years at 3i

SHARES in 3i jumped almost three per cent yesterday on hopes of a more aggressive strategy after Michael Queen announced he would stand down as chief executive.

The stock closed 5.7p higher as analysts said “fresh blood” could be good for 3i, Britain’s oldest private equity firm and the owner of stakes in architecture firm Foster + Partners and lingerie chain Agent Provocateur.

Queen, who in total has spent nearly 25 years at the firm, said: “After a difficult period 3i is now well placed to achieve its full potential. Having restored 3i’s financial strength the time is right for me to seek a new challenge.”

Queen, 50, had resisted pressure for a share buyback and was criticised for the poor performance of the group, which posted a total negative return of £523m for the six months to 30 September 2011.

In his three years at the top, however, he also tackled the firm’s high debt burden, shook up the structuring of deal terms and pushed the move to a broader asset management model. The former finance chief – who yesterday said overall market conditions had improved since January – is expected to seek one more major job in the public or private sector.

The search for Queen’s replacement has already begun, with chief investment officer Simon Borrows emerging as the main internal candidate.

Stephen Peters, an analyst at Charles Stanley, said: “Some fresh blood, with fresh ideas should be good for this company. From here it could go either way – it could be taken out, it might be subject to a series of corporate actions or they might turn it around.”