Zaoui Brothers Join Europe’s SPAC Rush With Odyssey Listing

Investment banker brothers Michael and Yoel Zaoui have become the latest dealmakers to jump into Europe’s growing market for blank-check companies.

The pair have teamed up with business figures Jean Raby, Olivier Brandicourt and Michel Combes to launch Odyssey Acquisition SA, a 300 million-euro ($357 million) vehicle that will list on Euronext Amsterdam, according to a statement Wednesday.

Odyssey will seek acquisitions in Europe’s health-care and technology, media and telecommunications sectors. Michael Zaoui will be chairman of Odyssey, with Yoel Zaoui and Raby serving as co-chief executive officers.

Zaoui Brothers Join Europe’s SPAC Rush With Odyssey Listing

The Zaouis join a raft of European bankers -- including former CEOs Jean Pierre Mustier, Martin Blessing and Tidjane Thiam -- in backing a special purpose acquisition company, which raises money from equity investors to fund takeovers of privately-held targets.

SPACs have raised $117 billion globally from investors this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. And while listings have cooled in the dominant U.S. market in recent months, they’ve been creeping up in Europe.

“The U.S. has largely deflated after massive capital raises there in the first quarter,” Michael Zaoui said in an interview. “There is some spillover of that sentiment in Europe but here the situation is entirely different because of the much lower volumes of SPAC listings.”

European exchanges have seen 21 blank-check IPOs price this year, compared with 359 on U.S. exchanges, the Bloomberg data show.

Skill Set

Michael and Yoel Zaoui built their reputations as dealmakers during careers with Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., respectively. They left the world of bulge-bracket banking and in 2013 established Zaoui & Co., a specialist advisory firm catering to some of Europe’s largest companies.

“The average size of deals we advise on is in the $10 billion range and upward,” Michael Zaoui said. “Odyssey’s targets will be smaller -- typically a couple of billion to $5 billion -- so there is no overlap or conflict with our advisory business.”

Odyssey will be able to draw on a wealth of industry expertise in its hunt for companies to merge with. Brandicourt was previously CEO of French pharmaceuticals group Sanofi, while Combes formerly steered U.S. telcom company Sprint Corp. through its merger with T-Mobile US Inc. and is now a president at SoftBank Group Corp. Raby is the ex-CEO of Natixis Investment Managers.

“The skills that you need to do a SPAC -- negotiating with stakeholders, finding a target, speaking with boards -- are all similar to M&A,” Yoel Zaoui said. “So we thought this would complement what we do well.”

Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase & Co. are leading the initial public offering of Odyssey, with ABN Amro Bank NV also having a role.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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