One scoop to start: Europe’s largest private equity group CVC Capital Partners has pushed back plans for a stock market listing in the first half of this year.

France’s scrum-half Antoine Dupont takes part in a scrum  during the Six Nations rugby union tournament match between France and Wales on March 20 2021 at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, outside Paris
Market scrum: the Six Nations rugby tournament is one business in which CVC holds a stake © AFP/Getty Images

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Welcome to Due Diligence, your briefing on dealmaking, private equity and corporate finance. This article is an on-site version of the newsletter. Sign up here to get the newsletter sent to your inbox every Tuesday to Friday. Get in touch with us anytime: Due.Diligence@ft.com

Tell us how you really feel, Elon

Elon Musk’s signature online candour comes across nearly as unfiltered in real life.

“We screwed the pooch six ways from Sunday and screwed up everything,” he told the FT’s Peter Campbell of Tesla’s humble beginnings on Tuesday, admitting that the electric carmaker outsourced a barbecue company in Thailand to make its first lithium battery. “It was a burning dumpster fire of stupidity.” 

And he was similarly frank when it came to his $44bn takeover of Twitter, saying at the FT’s Future of the Car summit that he would reinstate former US president Donald Trump to the platform if the deal is completed.

“It was a morally bad decision, and foolish in the extreme,” he said of the social media company’s decision to suspend Trump’s account last year.

“I would reverse the permaban [on Trump],” he said, adding: “I’ve talked with Jack Dorsey about this . . . he and I are of the same mind, which is that permanent bans should be extremely rare.” Twitter co-founder Dorsey agreed.

Musk’s plans aren’t final, he cautioned, noting that Twitter has not yet filed a proxy for a shareholder vote on the takeover.

“Objectively, it is not a done deal,” he said, adding: “There are still some outstanding questions that need to be resolved.” DD wonders whether that includes more investors to back Musk’s bid.

The billionaire entrepreneur recently revealed $7.14bn in funding from a surprising assembly of his deep-pocketed friends and faithful supporters including Larry Ellison and Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud.

Shares in the electric carmaker have plunged by more than 33 per cent since the start of the year as the company battles global supply chain issues. But Musk was keen to emphasise the increasing demand for Tesla vehicles, rather than production hiccups that have prolonged customer wait times.

“Even before there [were] supply chain issues, Tesla demand exceeded production,” Musk said. “So now it’s demand exceeding production to a ridiculous degree.” 

Musk shrugged off concerns about whether his purchase of Twitter would distract him from Tesla, or if his closer association with the social media platform — where he frequently stirs up controversy — risks backfiring on his electric car company as it strives to become the world’s largest carmaker by 2030.

Meanwhile, Trump has stated that he won’t return to Twitter even if Musk lifts the ban, and will instead use his own Twitter-esque platform, Truth Social, which he intends to list via a Spac. (Though the Spac in question, Digital World Acquisition Corp, has yet to file its S-4 with US regulators). 

“I’m trying to take the sort of actions that I think most likely make the future good, and hopefully not pave the road to hell with good intentions,” Musk said, later adding that Tesla would consider buying a mining company if it helped “accelerate the transition” to electric vehicles.

And Musk has grander plans than just tackling life on earth. “It’s important that we become a multi-planetary species,” he said.

Ares picks a crown jewel from a messy private equity collapse 

The story of private equity group Novalpina Capital’s collapse, with its vast array of unpredictable consequences for everyone from the maker of Pegasus spyware to Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala, has a new character.

Enter Ares Management, the $325bn US private markets group.

Ares’s credit fund has seized control of Laboratoire XO, the French pharmaceuticals group that was perhaps the least complicated of the three companies owned by the turmoil-hit €1bn buyout fund raised by Novalpina, DD’s Kaye Wiggins revealed.

(Israeli spyware maker NSO Group and Olympic Entertainment Group, an Estonian casino business, are also owned by the fund.)

Ares had lent LXO about €100mn and was its only lender, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.

NSO Group logo on a smartphone, which is placed on a keyboard in this illustration
NSO’s Pegasus software can infiltrate a smartphone and mirror its encrypted contents © Reuters

Since responsibility for managing the fund was stripped from Novalpina’s feuding co-founders last year and handed to the US consultancy Berkeley Research Group, Ares had granted a change-of-control waiver in relation to the loan . . . until now.

It has refused to extend the waiver, demanded repayment of the €100mn, and took control of the company on Friday after it wasn’t repaid.

It’s a blow to the pension funds that had ploughed money into the Novalpina fund and were hoping a sale of LXO would enable them to take some of that money back.

BRG isn’t giving up, however, setting the stage for a possible court battle. “The legality of the actions taken by Ares will be vigorously challenged,” the firm told the FT. 

BRG is already embroiled in Luxembourg litigation in which its right to manage the fund itself is being challenged.

The US consultancy’s executives must have known the risks when they chose to get involved with a bitter feud whose complications extended to an Israeli cyberweapon maker. But they probably never expected this.

Goldman and Citi go Spac to reality

If anyone needs further proof that things for Spacs are only going one way, look no further than recent news that Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are hitting pause on the market.

Just a month after the US Securities and Exchange Commission proposed rules that would increase liability for banks that work with Spacs, both Citi and Goldman — which last year ranked as the first and second biggest underwriters, respectively — are turning their backs on Spacs. At least for now.

Banks have been spooked by proposals which, if adopted, would see them held liable for misstatements made by Spacs when they merge with a company.

The pullback from Wall Street banks shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. There’s very little left in the Spac market to keep banks interested — listings and deals are down substantially compared to the past two years. Factor in the risk of being sued and you can see why they may want to take a step back.

Plus, most of Wall Street’s best known names have already had their fun. Goldman, Citi and their rivals have made hundreds of millions of dollars on the blank-cheque boom.

A trickle of deals is still happening. Grindr is going public through a Spac merger at a $2.1bn valuation, and French TV production group Banijay is pursuing a Spac deal backed by investors including Bernard Arnault, Vincent Bolloré and Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière.

But these deals look different to those seen at the height of the Spac boom.

Grindr’s presentation provides very little in terms of projections and lacks Pipe investors, once considered a must-have for Spac deals.

Job moves

Kirkland & Ellis has named Allison Wein as a partner in its corporate practice group, based in New York. She joins from Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

British Airways has announced a management overhaul in which chief information and digital officer Anthony Allcock will be replaced by McKinsey alum Dirk John, among other moves.

Standard Bank Group, Africa’s largest lender, has named Nonkululeko Nyembezi as chair — the first black female to occupy the role.

Private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners has promoted Tim Sullivan and Tom Souleles to co-presidents.

Uber has hired Goldman alum Sarah-Marie Martin as a senior executive in its corporate finance and capital markets group, per Bloomberg.

US Foods chief executive Pietro Satriano is stepping down as part of an agreement with Sachem Head Capital Management that will also grant activist investors three board seats at the company.

Smart reads

Don’t believe (all) the hype From Peter Thiel to BlackRock, Bolt Financial founder Ryan Breslow charmed nearly $1bn out of investors. But the Silicon Valley payments group may have stretched the truth to fuel its meteoric rise, the New York Times reports.

Tricks of the trade Big Oil has been keen to flaunt its recent trading performance. But when the FT’s reporters pressed for info on how much commodities traders are making amid price swings caused by the invasion of Ukraine, executives stayed mum.

And one smart listen: HSBC is under increasing pressure from shareholders to stage a historic break-up. Reuters Breakingviews columnists discuss why they believe the plan is doomed from the start.

News round-up

Pfizer to buy biotech group Biohaven for $11.6bn (FT + Lex)

Philip Morris/Swedish Match: nicotine alternatives in vogue (Lex)

Sanjeev Gupta fights to prop up GFG Alliance in twin legal battles (FT)

Tiger Global hit by $17bn losses in tech rout (FT)

Sajjan Jindal’s JSW makes $7bn bid for Holcim’s India businesses (FT)

Citi, BNY Mellon and Wells Fargo invest in crypto tech company (FT)

Andy Warhol painting of Marilyn Monroe sells for record $195mn (FT+ Lex)

Bored Ape creator’s next windfall: selling land in an ‘open’ metaverse (FT)

Due Diligence is written by Arash Massoudi, Kaye Wiggins and Robert Smith in London, Javier Espinoza in Brussels, James Fontanella-Khan, Ortenca Aliaj, Sujeet Indap, Eric Platt, Mark Vandevelde, Francesca Friday and Antoine Gara in New York and Miles Kruppa in San Francisco. Please send feedback to due.diligence@ft.com

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