Placement agents are buzzing around the market, hunting for mandates and a better grasp of what might tickle the buyside's fancy at the moment. Finding good product that hits the spot is tough. That's one reason why activity is still painfully slow, but 2004 and 2005 are expected to see a recovery. The expectation is for a wave of new funds to be bursting over the market soon, and intermediaries employed by GPs to help them win commitments had better make sure they don't miss it. Nor must their clients. Get in front of your buyers now, the placement agents tell the GPs – and they are leading by example.
You'll spot them in airports with a mobile phone at their ear, and at industry gatherings they turn up in droves. Bankers, boutiques, individuals – onlookers express amazement as to how many placement agents there are competing for business. At present, there are more self-styled placement specialists in the market than there were at the height of the private equity fundraising boom of 1999/2000. Even if you accept, as one practitioner insists, that every GP will need help with their next fund, you cannot help thinking that here is another segment of the industry that has overexpanded, no matter how positive the longterm fundamentals for private equity may be. And sure enough, many are banging elbows with each other as placement professionals jockey for position. Their struggle for mindshare amongst LPs and GPs ahead of the next business cycle is the subject of this month's cover story.
What you won't find in this issue is an article from our longstanding contributor Joe Bartlett. Joe, one of the most seasoned venture capital lawyers, has recently retired from Morrison & Foerster in New York but rather than hang up his spurs he has instead been busy setting up his own legal practice dedicated to VC and private equity matters. We wish him every success with his new business, safe in the knowledge that his passion for writing about this industry won't keep him away from these pages for too long.
Philip BorelManaging Editor