Private equity: Dunkin’ and divin’ around the doughnut issue
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Private equity: Dunkin’ and divin’ around the doughnut issue

JPMorgan found itself in a sticky hole last month when its private equity arm, JPMorgan Partners, was part of a consortium bidding for US doughnut company Dunkin’ Brands, which was being sold by French drinks company Pernod Ricard.

The auction of Dunkin’ Brands was being carried out by JPMorgan’s M&A advisory business, prompting talk of a possible conflict of interest. At press time it looked as if the problem would be averted as it seemed likely that the bidding consortium involving JPMorgan Partners would lose out in the auction to a rival bid of about $2 billion by Thomas H Lee Partners, Bain Capital and the Carlyle Group.

Many banks have spun off their private equity businesses to avoid competing for deals with private equity firms that may also be lucrative advisory clients. JPMorgan spun off JPMorgan Partners last March. Yet the Dunkin’ Brands auction shows that having an independent private equity shop can also be problematic to a bank’s advisory business if both are involved in the same transaction, which is increasingly likely given the current trend for private equity players to band together in rival consortiums to bid for the largest targets.

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