Ex-Highland official launches private credit placement agent firm for niche strategies

February 24, 2021

Jess Larsen, who until recently was partner and chief executive officer for the Americas at global placement agent FirstAvenue, has launched his own placement agent named Briarcliffe Credit Partners.

Larsen will be chief investment officer for the firm and has appointed ex-Highland Capital Management colleague Kyle John as managing director of sales.

Briarcliffe, based in New York, will focus on the private credit market, excluding direct lending. The firm says it hopes to captialise on the increased complexity and growth of the private credit market.

Instead of vanilla corporate direct lending, Briarcliffe will provide fundraising services to private credit firms focusing on niche strategies. It will look to support initial fund launches up to $1.5 billion, as well as subsequent fund launches.

Briarcliffe will generally focus on six to eight non-competing mandates at any given time, using a cost structure based on the realization and success of the fundraise.

In the news release, Larsen says there is a huge volume of 'dry powder' fundraising in the private market's sector. For this reasons pecialisation could be critical in driving fundraising success, he argues.

“We are seeing allocations increase to the dominant players and we expect this trend to continue,” Larsen says. This could “potentially require many small to mid-size managers to engage a strategic partner that understands the complexity of the asset class and can help provide direct access to relevant institutional private credit capital."

Larsen served as CEO and partner at FirstAvenue Americas for four years. focused on distribution, origination and project management in the 􀃭rm’s New York and Dallas of offices. He previously served global head of institutional sales at Highland Capital Management (2012to 2016) and before that, worked on Bank of America Merrill Lynch's European capital introduction team.

John joins from Regan Capital, where he was director of institutional sales, managing investor relationships. Before that, he spent three years at Highland (2012 to 2015), where he worked alongside Larsen on the investor relations team. He started his career in credit as an analyst at JP Morgan.

This isn't the first time this year former Highland officials have reunited to launch a new business. Creditflux reported in November that ex-Highland trio Mark Okada, Jack Yang and Trey Parker teamed up to form Dallas-based Sycamore Tree Capital, which will focus on traded credit, structured credit (including CLOs) and special situations.

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