Treasury favourite Sir Adrian Montague takes chair at private equity player 3i

SIR Adrian Montague, the City veteran known as the Treasury’s top fixer, was announced as the new chairman of listed private equity juggernaut 3i yesterday.

Montague joins the board in June, replacing Baroness Hogg who leaves after eight years in the role. Hogg said her successor had a “very impressive record in the financial services sector” and had accumulated a reputation as “an accomplished chairman”.

Montague, whose CV includes non-executive stints at Friends Provident and British Energy, and who was lead adviser to the Treasury between 1997 and 2001, said he would be working with chief executive Michael Queen to forge an identity for the buyout organisation.

He joins at a time when 3i’s fortunes are gradually recovering after a period of difficulty. Having been drawn into the culture of high leverage in the boom years of 2006 and 2007, 3i recorded a loss of nearly £2bn in 2008. Queen replaced Philip Yea last January and began repairing the group’s balance sheet, holding a £732m rights issue and selling off its venture portfolio. In March, 3i signalled a return to its small cap-focused roots with a €1.2bn (£1bn) growth capital portfolio.

In a statement, Montague said: “I look forward to becoming 3i’s chairman at such an interesting time in the company’s development. There will be great opportunities ahead.”

EDUCATED at Cambridge and professionally molded at Dresdner Kleinwort and Linklaters, Sir Adrian Montague is a well-connected man.

After leaving Linklaters in 1997 he spent four years at the dawn of the New Labour government helping then-Chancellor Gordon Brown raise private funds for public projects. Montague’s reputation as a safe pair of hands saw him parachuted into British Energy in 2003 to guide the beleaguered group through a taxpayer-funded bailout.

The 62-year-old’s list of private sector placements is no less impressive. He chaired Crossrail between 2004 and 2005 and still chairs the boards of Michael Page International, the recruitment agency, CellMark, the Swedish pulp and paper marketer. He is non-executive director of London First and Skanska, the Swedish engineering and construction group.

Montague is described as “silky smooth and assured”, but his commercial savvy has been severely tested in the past. As chairman of insurer Friends Provident in 2008 he rebuffed a takeover approach of 150p per share from US private equity house JC Flowers, only to see the business bought by Resolution for 79.4p per share a year later.

3i yesterday hailed Montague’s “wealth of experience”.