For some, just taking part is not enough. You have to raise the biggest fund. Do the largest deal. Make the most money. In short, winning is what it is all about – because that's how you show the world who's best.

And the point is, the world has to know.

According to a report in the UK's Independent newspaper, a rowing machine scoreboard in the swanky London hotel One Aldwych tells all. Damon Buffini, managing partner of buyout firm Permira, holds the establishment's record time for rowing 500 metres: 1 minute 34.5 seconds.

The newspaper's source said: “It's easily the best. It's not surprising if you see him work out.”

Reports are as yet unconfirmed that Steve Schwarzman, Henry Kravis and David Bonderman are forming an orderly queue for their turn on the ergometer.

“The idea that this is going to stop tax avoidance in private equity is preposterous. It is not so much a case of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut – he's missed the nut and hit everybody else.”

Terry Smith, chairman of financial services group Collins Stewart, expresses the view that, in raising capital gains tax from 10 percent to 18 percent, UK chancellor Alistair Darling has failed to seriously inconvenience wealthy private equity executives – his supposed target – while damaging prospects for small business owners, among others.

“In balancing our fiduciary obligations to our limited partners, and holding to the original thesis of the investment, we'll do everything we can – within reason – to help out the banks in this difficult period. We value our very long-term relationships on Wall Street.”

CD&R managing partner Kevin Conway tells Reuters that the firm held “extensive discussions” with banks regarding ways to best handle the credit squeeze.

“If you think of KKR, CVC and Permira as Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United, I would say don't. Think about Derby, Sunderland and West Ham – that group just trying to get in and establish their firm position in the Premiership.”

Permira partner Charles Sherwood claims in a Financial Times interview that the largest buyout firms are among the small fry of the M&A league. As evidence, he points out that even in the “golden” first six months of 2007, only one of the top 20 announced European M&A deals involved a buyout firm: Alliance Boots.