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Corporate Governance: The Harvard Law School Corporate Governance Blog
Leveraged Buyouts and Private Equity
By Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance
Per Stromberg and I have just completed Leveraged Buyouts and Private Equity. In the paper, we describe and present empirical evidence on the leveraged buyout and private equity industry, both firms and transactions.
We start the paper by describing how the private equity industry works. We describe private equity organizations such as Blackstone, Carlyle, and KKR, and the components of a typical leveraged buyout transaction, such as the buyout of RJR Nabisco or SunGard Data Systems. We present evidence on how private equity fundraising, activity and transaction characteristics have varied over time. The article then considers the effects of private equity. We look at evidence concerning how private equity affects capital structure, management incentives, and corporate governance. This evidence suggests that private equity activity creates economic value on average. At the same time, there is also evidence consistent with private equity investors taking advantage of market timing (and market mispricing) between debt and equity markets particularly in the public-to-private transactions of the last fifteen years.
We also review the empirical evidence on the economics and returns to private equity at the fund level. Private equity activity appears to experience recurring boom and bust cycles that are related to past returns and to the level of interest rates relative to earnings. Given that the unprecedented boom of 2005 to 2007 has just ended, it seems likely that there will be a decline in private equity investment and fundraising in the next several years. While the recent market boom may eventually lead to some defaults and investor losses, the magnitude is likely to be less severe than after the 1980s boom because capital structures are less fragile and private equity firms are more sophisticated. Accordingly, we expect that a significant part of the growth in private equity activity and institutions is permanent.
The full paper is available for download here.
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