NEW YORK (HedgeWorld.com)–Zurich Institutional Benchmarks Management LLC is now called Lyra Partners, as part of a buyout deal with Capital Z Investment Partners, New York, that was led by Garry Crowder.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Capital Z now has significant ownership of Lyra, with the majority ownership remaining in the hands of Lyra’s six-member management team. Mr. Crowder’s Benchmark Group was the asset management unit of Zurich Capital Markets that developed investable hedge fund index offerings and began marketing the indexes in 2001 Previous HedgeWorld Story.

Zurich Capital Markets’ hedge fund business overall has been dissolving as its parent, Zurich Financial Services, makes a concerted effort to focus on its core insurance activities, recently divesting of its structured products business .

The capital markets segment of Zurich’s business has been hit hard. According to the Zurich’s annual report, the capital markets and banking segment, which includes Zurich Capital Markets, recorded a loss of US$125 million in 2002, compared with a net income of US$89 million in 2001.

“We are uniquely positioned to build products that meet the particular portfolio needs of institutional investors,” Mr. Crowder said. He was the key person in developing the index business and growing the index offerings to total US$1.3 billion at The Benchmark Group.

Before joining Zurich Capital Markets, Mr. Crowder was known for his roles as a managing director at both Tiger Management and at Morgan Stanley Asset Management.

Lyra will continue to offer the five investable index portfolios that cover convertible arbitrage, event-driven, distressed securities, equity market neutral and merger arbitrage strategies. Most of the firm’s clients are banks and insurance companies investing their proprietary portfolio assets in hedge funds. The investment minimum for Lyra’s investable indexes is US$10 million.

In a statement, Laurence Cheng, chairman and chief executive officer of Capital Z, said, “As hedge funds become more recognized as integral components of diversified portfolios, Lyra will be well positioned for future growth. This transaction is designed to take Lyra to the next level of business development.”

Mr. Cheng’s firm focuses on investing in private equity and hedge fund managers. Officials there provide either a foundation investment to support experienced teams forming new firms or offer growth capital to evolving firms.

Mr. Crowder said that Lyra plans to expand its core offerings over the next six to 12 months. Officials also want to extend the firm’s corporate relationships and look for additional partners, Mr. Crowder added.

SBarreto@HedgeWorld.com