First Round: Took our breath away

“Deal guys are like Maverick, sitting up front, flying the plane,” said the panelist (whose identity will remain classified, for his own security). “Operators are like [Maverick’s co-pilot Goose], sitting in the back seat, pushing the buttons.”

Now First Round bows to no magazine intro section in its admiration of the Tony Scott-helmed classic. Many’s the time when it has donned a flight suit and dog-tags of an evening, before wandering down to the nearest bar to perform a rousing rendition of “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” to a local lovely (come on, we’ve all done it).

Nonetheless, it has a few reservations about this particular analogy. First and foremost, Goose dies. Is our buyout chum therefore suggesting that the job of operating partners is to play an supporting role to the hot-shot pilot / dealmaker up front, while metaphorically sporting a natty line in Hawaiian shirts, dodgy moustaches and hum-dinging one-liners – only to perish messily when things start to hot up?

That said, it clearly does work on some levels. The quasi-symbiotic relationship between pilot and radar intercept officer in an F14 Tomcat (keep your eyes open at the back, people) is probably quite similar to that which exists between private equity executives.

Dealmakers do, in a sense, ‘drive’ an investment – while the operational specialists then get to grips with it, push the right buttons, and make it tick. The dealmaker then ‘lands’ the investment via an exit, which just like a carrier landing at night in stormy seas, is easier said than done, particularly in today’s choppy market.

Actually, never mind the Goose element – it’s a great analogy. Now if you don’t mind, First Round is off to the beach on its motorbike to play some volleyball. Great balls of fire.