This content is from: Portfolio

UBS Veteran Robin Budenberg Leads Centerview Partners’ U.K. Growth

Former head of U.K. Financial Investments, Robin Budenberg brings valuable experience to the investment and advisory firm’s London office.

RObin Budenberg is too modest to admit it, but the rebirth of London’s St Pancras International station owes something to him. At UBS in 2009, Budenberg advised on the restructuring of London and Continental Railways, then struggling under £5.1 billion ($8.3 billion) in debt incurred to build the high-speed rail line through the Channel Tunnel. He helped broker a deal whereby the Department for Transport bought LCR for £1, paving the way for the regeneration of St Pancras, a onetime haunt of prostitutes and drug dealers that is now the terminal for the Eurostar link to France.

“Robin is very quiet and considered and was never the typical flamboyant investment banker,” remembers Sir David Cooksey, who chaired LCR during the negotiations. “He has a great quality of being able to gently persuade people who don’t want to be persuaded.”

It’s a skill that Budenberg called on during his 25-year career at UBS, where he advised some of the U.K.’s biggest companies, followed by a stint as chief executive of government agency U.K. Financial Investments. Earlier this month he became partner and chairman at Centerview London, the U.K. branch of the U.S. boutique investment and advisory firm co-founded by Blair Effron and Robert Pruzan. Budenberg, 55, has long admired New York–based Centerview Partners, and he’s joining when boutiques are flourishing. Centerview is advising British pharmacy chain Alliance Boots on its two-step, $27 billion pending merger with U.S. retail giant Walgreen Co. and California biopharmaceutical company InterMune on its forthcoming $9 billion sale to Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding.

In the U.S., Centerview ranked eighth for M&A in the first half of 2014, with a total of $146 billion in deal volume, according to Dealogic. But it placed 20th in Europe, advising on seven deals worth a combined $28 billion, after failing to crack the top 20 in the same period last year. Centerview opened its London office in 2009, hiring Richard Girling from Bank of America Merrill Lynch to launch a health care advisory practice; as boutiques get more involved in major deals, Budenberg’s arrival gives it a senior figure with strong ties to big British corporations.

Budenberg grew up in the northwestern English town of Altrincham, where his family owned Budenberg Gauge Co., a maker of pressure gauges and accessories established in Manchester in 1854. (U.K. holding company Burnfield acquired it in 1991.) He earned a law degree from the University of Exeter but opted for finance, training as an accountant with Price Waterhouse before joining the London office of S.G. Warburg & Co. in 1984 as an associate. On his first day he attended a board meeting of media giant Reuters Group. “Robert Maxwell and Rupert Murdoch were both on the board,” he recalls. “All I did was pour the coffee, but it was very exciting.”

Budenberg became an adviser to London-based Reuters; that relationship survived for 24 years as he weathered management changes and helped the company with its 1984 flotation. In 1995, after Swiss Bank Corp. acquired Warburg, he was named joint head of corporate finance and a board member of the combined firm. He returned to deal making as a managing director in 1997, the year before SBC Warburg merged with UBS.

Among his notable UBS transactions, Budenberg represented U.K. airports operator BAA on its £10.3 billion sale to Spain’s Grupo Ferrovial in 2006 and Reuters on its $17 billion merger with Canada’s Thomson Corp. in early 2008. As the financial crisis took hold later that year, he advised the British government on its bailout of the nation’s banks. Budenberg was part of the team that worked with then–chancellor of the exchequer Alistair Darling to hammer out the details of the so-called Balti bailout — the men dined on £250 worth of curry from Darling’s favorite Indian restaurant on London’s Kennington Road — a £500 billion asset protection scheme designed to help banks shouldering bad loans.

In 2009, when Cooksey was appointed chairman of UKFI, the unit of Her Majesty’s Treasury that manages taxpayer holdings in Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland, he enlisted Budenberg as CEO. Given the backlash against the banking industry, it was the most challenging phase of Budenberg’s career. “We were steering a course between the banks and politics, promoting the commercial interests of the banks in the context of the broader public interest,” says the keen golfer, who took over as UKFI chair in 2012. The danger was that compensation levels in state-owned banks would become the subject of votes in the House of Commons. The spotlight often fell on the pay of Stephen Hester, former chief executive of RBS, which had the bigger investment division of the two partly nationalized banks. Before handing the reins to James Leigh-Pemberton last December, Budenberg oversaw the British government’s first sell-down of its stake in Lloyds, from 38.7 percent to 32.7 percent, for £3.2 billion.

Centerview’s Effron approached him and fellow partner Nick Reid, both former colleagues from UBS, to spearhead a greater London focus. “Nick and I, together with Richard Girling, want to establish Centerview as a highly regarded adviser in London, focused on long-term, trusted advice and capitalizing on the strengths it has in the U.S.,” Budenberg says.

Get more on corporations.

Related Content