Power and Money

Hottest Topics in Private Equity: Carlyle Says ...


When Carlyle speaks, people listen. At least, people who are interested in investing or in attempting to replicate the private equity giant's returns. Bill Conway, founding partner and managing director at Carlyle, spoke yesterday afternoon at the Dow Jones Private Equity Analyst Outlook Conference in New York City. And looking at the faces in the audience, people really listened.

For those of you who were not fortunate enough to be there, and listen to the excellent discussion led by Wall Street Journal Special Correspondent Henny Sender, here's what Conway had to say about some of the hottest topics in private equity today:

On Club Deals: It's the early days of club deals, and when things are easy, "it's easy to fall in love." Conway hopes never to see what happens when there is no love. But he does have clear views on which club deals work best. Smaller clubs, with a couple players are tough, because one party can always veto the other's suggestions. (For example: How about changing the CEO? No, let's give him another 6 months.) But clubs with more members (4-7) might fare better, simply because majority rules.

On Doing Deals Today: There are fewer deals today that are simple financial engineering deals. Simple arbitrage is harder to do.

On Management Teams: One of Conway's biggest regrets on some deals is not changing the management team faster. He says if he had swapped out the old for his own team sooner, he could've banked more money on many deals. (Question left unanswered: what does this say about the returns on management-led buyouts?)

On What He Could Have Done Differently: In retrospect, Conway says he wishes he had invested in every deal, all over the world 10 years ago. Everything was a moneymaker... and he said humbly, "We're not geniuses." It was the market that was so good.

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