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5 Premier Private Equity Organizations in the U.S.

Susan Kelly

Oct 25, 2023

The US financial landscape is entirely of the biggest private equity firms. These firms manage massive sums from institutional investors and wealthy individuals, giving them immense power. Leveraged buyouts and venture capital are their primary methods of acquiring company equity. We will analyze the top U.S. biggest private equity firms AUM, strategies, and top portfolio companies.

1. The Blackstone Group Inc.

The Blackstone Group Inc. inevitably tops the list when one thinks of prominent private equity players in the U.S. Founded in the bustling hub of New York in 1985, this titan has firmly established its reputation as one of the largest private equity firms. Their enormous assets under management (AUM) amass a staggering $941 billion, solidifying their market dominance. With an ability to spot promising sectors, Blackstone consistently invests in energy, retail, and technology spaces.

The firm's reach isn't limited to just private equity. Real estate investments, credit facilities, and hedge funds also fall within Blackstone's extensive portfolio. Those seeking examples of their investment prowess need look no further than their stakes in Refinitiv. This market data provider is a testament to their understanding. Ancestry, with its expansive family history services, and Bumble, a leading name in social connections, also form part of its diverse and successful investment catalog.

2. KKR & Co. Inc.

There's a certain prestige attached to names that have weathered economic shifts, and KKR & Co. Inc. personifies that. Previously operating under the moniker Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., this behemoth, with roots dating back to 1976 in New York, can boast an AUM worth $479 billion. Such figures position them as one of the top private equity firms, with a track record to back that claim.

Leveraged buyouts, a strategy for securing loans against their target's assets, have been synonymous with KKR's brand. They trailblazed the strategy's adoption on a grand scale, setting a benchmark for others in the industry. The 1989 acquisition of RJR Nabisco and the 2007 takeover of TXU are just two feathers in their well-decorated cap. Their investment insights continue beyond there. In the contemporary financial scene, their discerning eyes have identified and invested in names like Fiserv Inc., a financial services technology provider; Optiv, a security solutions integrator; and PetVet, a trusted animal healthcare provider.

3. CVC Capital Partners

Since its inception in 1981, CVC Capital Partners has rapidly become one of the leading figures in the financial industry. Their impressive growth has seen them manage nearly $127 billion in assets under management (AUM). With their headquarters initially established in Luxembourg, their foresight and strategy allowed them to set up 25 additional offices globally. These offices act as key centers where their financial experts collaborate, strategize, and manage a portion of their total AUM. Specifically, their private equity platforms account for around $87 billion.

CVC's success lies in its ability to identify potential in various businesses. With investments in more than 110 companies, their portfolio showcases multiple industries and sectors. They’re not just one of the top private equity firms in size but also influence. Over the years, CVC's dedication to excellence has helped them cement their reputation. Their consistency in delivering returns to their stakeholders is commendable, and they continue to stand out as an exemplar in the financial community.

4. The Carlyle Group Inc.

The Carlyle Group Inc., founded in 1987, represents the epitome of financial prowess and global reach. With an impressive AUM of $376 billion, they have consistently showcased their ability to harness international opportunities. Washington, D.C., isn't just the political heart of America but also home to this financial juggernaut. They coordinate a massive workforce of over 1,900 professionals from this pivotal location. These professionals are distributed across 26 offices globally, ensuring that The Carlyle Group Inc. remains at the forefront of global financial movements.

Their portfolio reveals investments in some of the most renowned brands. Names like Supreme and Workforce Logiq resonate in their respective industries, a testament to The Carlyle Group's knack for identifying and nurturing potential. Carlyle has maintained its position among the largest private equity firms due to its keen market sense, experienced workforce, and rigorous due diligence processes. They are investors and partners to the companies they invest in, providing resources, networks, and expertise to ensure mutual growth.

5. Thoma Bravo

In a financial industry filled with versatile players, Thoma Bravo stands out with its laser-focused approach to the tech and software sectors. Celebrating their 40th anniversary, they manage assets worth $114 billion. One of the largest private equity firms in this sector, their years of experience have given them a deep understanding of the rapidly changing tech landscape.

It's no secret that tech has led innovation and growth for decades. Thoma Bravo has been at the forefront of this wave with its sharp focus. They identify promising tech startups, invest in them, and provide strategic guidance to ensure these startups reach their full potential. Their portfolio boasts names like McAfee, a leader in cybersecurity; Conga, which specializes in workflow solutions; and Anchorage, a rising star in the crypto platform space.

Compensation in Private Equity

Private equity remains a rewarding field, financially speaking. Data from a 2019 Heidrick & Struggles survey highlighted substantial cash compensations. Firms under $20 billion AUM could pay managing partners $1.1 million to $3.7 million. In contrast, associates, these firms' entry-level professionals, earned $193,000 to $315,000.

Top payers for associate positions included Apollo Global Management, KKR & Co., and Brookfield Asset Management. Reports suggest that Apollo Global Management might be the highest compensating firm, with annual associate salaries exceeding $400,000.

Public or Private? Where These Firms Stand

Among the largest private equity firms, some choose the route of public trading. Some majorly recognized and notable names include Apollo Global Management, The Blackstone Group, The Carlyle Group, and, not to forget, KKR & Co. Meanwhile, firms like Advent International, Bain Capital, TPG Capital, and Warburg Pincus are prevalent and operate as private firm sectors.

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