GREENWICH, Conn. – General Atlantic Partners tapped Dr. Klaus Esser, former chairman of Mannesmann AG, to head a proposed German office. Esser, who joined the firm in mid-November as a partner, severed ties with Mannesmann in June following the company’s unsolicited takeover by Vodafone Group PLC.
“First and foremost Klaus is an extremely experienced and well-respected executive in Europe,” said Steve Denning, managing partner at General Atlantic.
Esser is expected to strengthen the telecom practice for the firm that has made its name as a software, information technology and Internet-services shop.
“I feel we will see a significant growth in Internet products that are transmitted via wireless data products,” Esser said. He added that the private equity markets would be the best arena to take advantage of the growth.
Esser and Denning both talked about the combination of General Atlantic’s IT strengths and Esser’s telecommunication experience. While at Mannesmann, Esser said he recognized a need by telecommunications providers for IT products and services.
Esser said he was drawn to General Atlantic because the firm was strong in areas that would complement his skills. He felt it was a “very good fit” and positioned the group to take advantage of the convergence of content and telecommunications.
While Esser’s optimism for his field may not be uncommon among VCs, his hunches have proven very successful in the past. Esser is credited in the massive conversion of Mannesmann from an engineering-focused business into a wireless company.
“He enjoyed a lot of trust in the European and I would say global investor community,” said Christian Kern, telecommunications analyst with Schroder Salomon Smith Barney in London. “He is a very analytical guy who can communicate his vision. The beauty of his presentation was he always had very strong arguments.”
Entrepreneurs could have two reactions to Esser’s involvement. They could appreciate his experience, or they could fear losing control of their companies in the face of his abilities.
“I think it’s going to be a huge positive,” Denning said. “I think entrepreneurs will embrace that kind of talent and expertise.” He indicated that neither Esser’s personality nor General Atlantic’s philosophy would not lend themselves to overstepping their license.
“We’re not going to tell a company how to run their business,” Denning said. “It’s a partnership.”
Denning indicated that Esser is projected to open a German office, most likely near Munich by mid-2001. Denning expected the office to be fully staffed, indicating that current German employees stationed abroad might be eager to return to Munich.
Esser will be immediately involved as the chair of General Atlantic-affiliate Apollis AG. He expects to eventually spend about 20% of his time with the Munich-based operating company that is focused on creating and acquiring wireless-enabled applications and services.
General Atlantic also added Sir Alan Rudge and Howard Finkelstein as special advisors in the wireless telecommunications area.