Sunday, September 16, 2007
This paper analyzes the economics of the private equity industry using a novel model and dataset. We obtain data from a large investor in private equity funds, with detailed records on 238 funds raised between 1992 and 2006. Fund managers earn revenue from a variety of fees and profit-sharing rules. We build a model to estimate the expected revenue to managers as a function of these rules, and we test how this estimated revenue varies across the characteristics of our sample funds. Among our sample funds, about 60 percent of expected revenue comes from fixed-revenue components which are not sensitive to performance. We find major differences between venture capital (VC) funds and buyout (BO) funds – the two main sectors of the private equity industry. In general, BO fund managers earn lower revenue per managed dollar than do managers of VC funds, but nevertheless these BO managers earn substantially higher revenue per partner and per professional than do VC managers. Furthermore, BO managers build on their prior experience by raising larger funds, which leads to significantly higher revenue per partner and per professional, despite the fact that these larger funds have lower revenue per dollar. Conversely, while prior experience by VC managers does lead to higher revenue per partner in later funds, it does not lead to higher revenue per professional. Taken together, these results suggest that the BO business is more scalable than the VC business.