Friday Letter: A group of 30

The most important assets in private equity are people. Key men and women throughout the industry are not just helping to deliver superior returns on the funds they manage but are also advancing the cause of private equity amongst the investor community, amongst regulators and government agencies – and even amongst those labelled: “the general public.”  

Many of these key people are seasoned individuals, figures bearing the grey hair and battle scars of those who have been involved in the asset class from its very early days (private equity’s accelerated passage through infancy and adolescence has not failed to leave its mark on some). And, just as inevitably, the asset class has now reached an age when a new generation of key people is beginning to emerge, individuals who are going to help shape private equity for the next 25 years.

Let us therefore introduce you to some of these valuable new assets on a pro forma basis – sister publication Private Equity International recently unveiled “30 Rising Stars of Private Equity” in this month’s issue of the magazine.

The team who composed this feature report that it was both fun and complicated to put together. It involved months of deliberation and discussion with numerous seasoned practitioners in the US, Europe and Asia. Everyone had their favourites – as well as their own agendas (which GP doesn’t highly rate their foremost LP?).

Finding individuals likely to make a greater and greater impact on the industry going forward involves subjectivity and speculation (two traits that private equity has never failed to embrace). At the very least, the end result shows that many organisations active in private equity around the world have deep benches of talent, something essential to the industry’s longevity.

The feature does not attempt to rank this group of 30, but rather has attempted to assemble those people from across the private equity world who evidence many of the attributes that colleagues, partners and peers have inferred as connoting star potential. 

Unsurprisingly, given the great amount of talent in the industry as well as divergent opinions, the early drafts of the shortlists were actually quite long. In winnowing down the list, no formula was applied to get the selection “right”. There were various reference points, including the calibre of the organisation with which the candidate was affiliated, the nature of the transactions or innovations spearheaded by the candidate, regard for the candidate amongst those who had encountered them and, sometimes, age.

With rising stars on the GP side, there was high praise for those who had led or worked on a landmark transaction or string of deals. On the LP side, candidates were suggested who are seen as counterintuitive thinkers, thorough in their due diligence, knowledgeable in their engagement with managers – and often unimpressed with brand names.

In Asia we found enthusiasm for younger professionals who had recently launched their own firms, perhaps a sign that investors are eager to start fresh in a region that still has yielded more private equity disappointment than success. 

Hopefully, citation on this list will not prove a poisoned chalice for anyone – you can be sure that we will all be following the careers of these select individuals with interest – and no doubt wincing each time we come across an incredibly talented private equity leader who somehow failed to be one of the 30.