It’s easy to forget that what currently is has not always been. Things change, often rapidly.
That’s particularly true in the world of private equity, where new firms rise and fall every year based on the performance of past funds, changes in management, their current place in the fundraising cycle, general market conditions and the countless other trends and forces that shape the way billions of dollars flow from limited partners to investors to private companies.
To figure out some of the major trends in PE investor activity over the past decade-plus, we divided the past 12 years into four separate chunks of three years each and ranked the most-active investors during each timeframe. The result shows us which firms have been rapidly increasing their deal count and which firms have been falling off.
Take, for instance, ABRY Partners (more on whose activity you can read about right here). The firm was the busiest PE investor in the US between 2013 and 2015, according to the PitchBook Platform, completing a staggering 169 deals. In the three-year period before that, however, ABRY completed 67 deals, 10th-most among PE investors; between 2007 and 2009, meanwhile, the firm executed just 39 deals in the US, tying for 24th among most-active investors.
Perhaps the first thing that jumps out is the steady presence of The Carlyle Group at the very top of the list. The firm was the busiest PE investor in the US in each of our first three periods, falling only to fourth between 2013 and 2015. Carlyle, Blackstone and The Riverside Company are the only three firms to rank in the top 10 during each period in our sample.
ABRY is the most rapid riser, jumping from outside the top 10 from 2007-2009 into the top spot from 2013-2015. GTCR and Hellman & Friedman also stand out as firms with activity on the uptick.
Joining American Capital in its decline from the top of the charts in 2004-2006 is Goldman Sachs, which has minimized its private equity dealings in the wake of the financial crisis. After ranking in the top four of our sample’s first three time periods, Goldman ranks 30th from 2013 to 2015 with 45 completed deals. The back half of the top 10 from 2004-2006 is dotted with other names that have faded away from the mainstream PE landscape: Alta Communications, Allied Capital (the firm with questionable accounting practices acquired by Ares Capital in 2010) and aPriori Capital Partners (which operated as DLJ Merchant Banking partners until 2014).
Also of note is the varying quantity of deal activity in each timeframe. While a firm that conducted 75 deals between 2013 and 2015 wouldn’t even crack the top 10, that total would be good for fourth place between 2007 and 2009, the period most substantially affected by the financial crisis. As a matter of fact, the four busiest three-year stretches by PE investors in the US during the past 12 years all occurred between 2013 and 2015.