The Private Equity Shakeout That Didn't Happen

The Private Equity Shakeout That Didn't Happen

The global financial meltdown was a difficult time for private equity, but the industry withstood the maelstrom better than expected in one crucial respect.

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The Private Equity Shakeout That Didn't Happen

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The global financial meltdown was a disaster for banks, brokerages, insurers and investors, as credit seized up and equity markets tanked. However, as we report in Bain & Company’s Global Private Equity Report 2016, a special in-depth analysis comparing how private equity (PE) fared during the past downturn vs. the previous one following the collapse of the tech bubble in 2000 revealed that in one crucial respect the PE industry withstood the maelstrom far better than commonly expected.

Sure, the downturn claimed PE firms by the hundreds: 26% of the 4,019 buyout firms that had raised a new fund between 2002 and 2008 went dark after the crisis hit, not raising another fund since 2009 and appearing unlikely to do so ever again. Indeed, our investigation found that the casualty rate of buyout firms was somewhat higher than that triggered by the bursting of the tech bubble in 2001, but off a much larger base. Then, 21% of the 196 firms that had been active new fund-raisers between 1992 and 2001 failed to raise a subsequent fund after 2002. But by one crucial measure—the proportion of total assets under management (AUM) of buyout funds—the effects of the 2008 downturn were far milder. The AUM represented by the firms that did not raise new funds after 2002 were 20% of the industry total raised in the prior period. By sharp contrast, firms that failed to raise a new fund after 2009 represented just 6% of total buyout fund AUM raised between 2002 and 2008.

One big reason why the cessation of so many mattered so little is that most of the 2008 firm casualties were small shops; more than half of them had raised just one fund before their demise. The financial crisis and downturn that followed culled the young and weak, as recessions are wont to do, but barely put a dent in the health of the PE industry overall.

Hugh MacArthur, Graham Elton, Dan Haas and Suvir Varma are leaders of Bain & Company’s Private Equity Group.


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