In Private Equity, the Past May Be a Guide to Future Results

A new study supports the notion that private equity and venture capital managers that “do well with one fund are more likely to do well with the next,” according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal.

The study, conducted by data company PitchBook, supports data reflected in several academic studies, the article says. However, the question remains as to whether performance comes down to a firm’s methods or the talent of individual deal makers. “Some evidence suggests,” it adds, “it is individuals that matter. This is becoming a critical issue as leaders change at established firms like Carlyle and KKR.”

The PitchBook study found that when one fund from a private equity group performs in the top quartile, “there is a significant chance its next fund also does.” The article explains: “Skill in making investments and improving operations has something to do with this. But it is also about access: Successful managers get first sight of upcoming deals through their reputation with the bankers and other advisers who help sell companies. That access is self-reinforcing.”

History tells us, the article points out, that individual partners in private equity firms are an even better indicator of which funds will do well, adding that management changes could disrupt those firms’ ability to find important deals.

The private equity business is “already under pressure from all the money that has flowed into the sector,” the article concludes, so it remains important to investors that firms keep their best deal makers.