A front row seat to PE’s transformation

Our 21st Anniversary Special looks at the ways the private equity asset class has evolved over two decades and identifies the key people who've been behind its transformation.

First things first: I may have been invited to dust off my keyboard and write this letter, but the actual editor of our 21st Anniversary Special was my brilliant colleague Louise Fordham, whose vision and energy enabled its publication. By rights, the hello and welcome to our Special Report should be Louise’s.

The reason I get to address you here regardless is that I was editor 21 years ago when we first started Private Equity International and took tentative steps into covering the industry. “What’s your business model?” an apparently sceptical David Rubenstein asked when we first met him at a conference in the very early days. Fortunately for us, it turned out we had one.

To say the asset class was in its infancy then would be a mischaracterisation. As an investment model, private equity was well established, the seeds of the astounding growth to come already sown and sprouting. Still, few would have predicted at the time that two decades on, private equity as an asset class could no longer be labelled ‘alternative’.

What followed was institutions around the world beginning to rethink investment strategies that had barely given private funds the time of day. Market conditions, and with them received wisdom, evolved in ways that led to PE being seen as a returns machine – beguiling and irresistible. Soon LP allocations had doubled, tripled or quadrupled. By the time the global financial crisis unfolded, the asset class had gone mainstream.

This transformation has continued ever since, and PEI has had a front row seat throughout from which to chronicle and comment on the action. It’s been fascinating, and we’re grateful to you, our loyal readership.

Today, with the age of cheap money ending and fresh challenges facing the industry, we’re as enthusiastic about keeping up with it all as we were at the beginning. Enjoy our reflections on the story so far, and do stay tuned.