The 25 Largest Private Equity Firms Since 2015
Frequent the business section of your favorite newspaper long enough, and you’ll see mentions of private equity (PE).
Maybe it’s because a struggling company got bought out and taken private, just as Toys “R” Us did in 2005 for $6.6 billion.
Otherwise, it’s likely a mention of a major investment (or payout) that a PE firm scored through venture or growth capital. For example, after Airbnb had to postpone its original plans for a 2020 initial public offering (IPO) in light of the pandemic, the company raised more than $1 billion in PE funding to plan for a new listing later this year.
Yet many people don’t fully understand the size and scope of private equity. To demonstrate the impact of PE, we break down the funds raised by the top 25 firms over the last five years.
How Private Equity Firms Operate
First, we need to differentiate between private equity and other forms of investment.
A PE firm makes investments and provides financial backing to startups and non-public companies (or public companies that are being taken private).
Each firm raises a PE fund by pooling capital from investors, which it then uses to carry out transactions such as leveraged buyouts, venture and growth capital, distressed investments, and mezzanine capital.
Unlike other investment firms such as hedge funds, private equity firms take a direct role in managing their assets. In order to maximize value, that can mean asset stripping, lay-offs, and other significant restructuring.
Traditionally, PE investments are held on a longer-term basis, with the goal of maximizing the target company’s value through an IPO, merger, recapitalization, or sale.
The List: The Most PE Funds Raised in Five Years
So which names should you know in private equity?
Here are the largest 25 private equity firms by their five-year PE fundraising total over the last five years, with data on funds and investments from respective firms and Private Equity International.
They include well-known private equity houses like The Blackstone Group and KKR (Kohlberg Kravis Roberts), as well as investment managers with private equity divisions like BlackRock.
|Rank||Private Equity Firm||5-Year Funds Raised ($B)||Notable Current Investments|
|1||The Blackstone Group||95.95||Refinitiv, Merlin Entertainments|
|2||The Carlyle Group||61.72||ZoomInfo, PPD|
|3||Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.||54.76||Axel Springer SE, Epic Games|
|4||TPG Capital||38.68||Cirque du Soleil, Cushman & Wakefield|
|5||Warburg Pincus||37.59||Airtel, Sundyne|
|6||Neuberger Berman||36.51||Marquee Brands, Telxius|
|7||CVC Capital Partners||35.88||Petco, Premiership Rugby|
|8||EQT Partners||34.46||Dunlop Protective Footwear, SUSE|
|9||Advent International||33.49||Cobham, Serta Simmons Bedding,|
|10||Vista Equity Partners||32.1||Finastra, Mindbody|
|11||Leonard Green & Partners||26.31||Lucky Brand, Signet Jewelers|
|12||Cinven||26.15||Kurt Geiger, Hotelbeds|
|13||Bain Capital||25.74||Virgin Voyages, Canada Goose|
|14||Apollo Global Management||25.42||ADT, Chuck E Cheese's|
|15||Thoma Bravo||25.29||Dynatrace, McAfee|
|16||Insight Partners||22.74||Monday.com, HelloFresh|
|17||BlackRock||22.46||Authentic Brands Group, Qumulo|
|18||General Atlantic||22.42||Airbnb, Vox Media|
|19||Permira||22.21||Dr. Martens, Informatica|
|20||Brookfield Asset Management||21.69||Multiplex, Westinghouse Electric|
|21||EnCap Investments||21.33||Pegasus Resources, Lotus Midstream|
|22||Francisco Partners||19.13||Verifone, GoodRx|
|23||Platinum Equity||18.00||Livingston International, Palace Sports & Entertainment|
|24||Hillhouse Capital Group||17.89||Miniso, Belle International|
|25||Partners Group||17.87||Civica, KinderCare Education|
Most of the world’s top PE firms, including TPG Capital (which invested in Ducati Motorcycles, J. Crew, and Del Monte Foods) and Advent International (an early investor in Lululemon Athletica) are headquartered in the U.S.
In fact, of the largest 25 private equity firms in the last five years, just four are headquartered in Europe (CVC, EQT, Cinven, and Permira) and one in Asia (Hillhouse).
Another name that might be recognizable is Bain Capital, which was co-founded by Utah Senator and former Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney and found success with investments in AMC Theatres, Domino’s Pizza, and iHeartMedia.
Famous Private Equity Investments
One of the most surprising things investors discover about private equity is how many large organizations have been funded through the PE world.
More well-known investments include KKR’s $31.1 billion takeover of food and tobacco conglomerate RJR Nabisco in 1989, and Blackstone’s $26 billion buyout of Hilton Hotels Corporation in 2007.
But other well-known companies have been funded, saved, or restructured through private equity. That list includes grocery chain Safeway, fast food chain Burger King, international racing operator Formula One Group, and hotel and casino company Caesars Entertainment (then called Harrah’s Entertainment).
Many other notable investments could soon pay off for private equity. With IPOs back in season, tech companies like Airbnb and Epic Games are ripe for payouts. At the same time, restructuring companies like J. Crew and Chuck E Cheese’s always offers a chance to recapitalize.
With the COVID-19 economic downturn resulting in newly distressed companies and potential takeover targets, expect the private equity world to be very active in the foreseeable future.
Companies Gone Public in 2021: Visualizing IPO Valuations
Tracking the companies that have gone public in 2021, their valuation, and how they did it.
Companies Gone Public in 2021: Visualizing Valuations
Despite its many tumultuous turns, last year was a productive year for global markets, and companies going public in 2021 benefited.
From much-hyped tech initial public offerings (IPOs) to food and healthcare services, many companies with already large followings have gone public this year. Some were supposed to go public in 2020 but got delayed due to the pandemic, and others saw the opportunity to take advantage of a strong current market.
This graphic measures 68 companies that have gone public in 2021 — including IPOs, SPACs, and Direct Listings—as well as their subsequent valuations after listing.
Who’s Gone Public in 2021?
Historically, companies that wanted to go public employed one main method above others: the initial public offering (IPO).
But companies going public today readily choose from one of three different options, depending on market situations, associated costs, and shareholder preference:
- Initial Public Offering (IPO): A private company creates new shares which are underwritten by a financial organization and sold to the public.
- Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC): A separate company with no operations is created strictly to raise capital to acquire the company going public. SPACs are the fastest method of going public, and have become popular in recent years.
- Direct Listing: A private company enters a market with only existing, outstanding shares being traded and no new shares created. The cost is lower than that of an IPO, since no fees need to be paid for underwriting.
The majority of companies going public in 2021 chose the IPO route, but some of the biggest valuations resulted from direct listings.
|Listing Date||Company||Valuation ($B)||Listing Type|
|21-Jan-21||Hims and Hers Health||$1.6||SPAC|
|05-May-21||The Honest Company||$1.4||IPO|
|07-May-21||Blade Air Mobility||$0.83||SPAC|
|29-Sep-21||Warby Parker||$6.0||Direct Listing|
|27-Oct-21||Rent the Runway||$1.7||IPO|
Though there are many well-known names in the list, one of the biggest through lines continues to be the importance of tech.
A majority of 2021’s newly public companies have been in tech, including multiple mobile apps, websites, and online services. The two biggest IPOs so far were South Korea’s Coupang, an online marketplace valued at $60 billion after going public, and China’s ride-hailing app Didi Chuxing, the year’s largest post-IPO valuation at $73 billion.
And there were many apps and services going public through other means as well. Gaming company Roblox went public through a direct listing, earning a valuation of $30 billion, and cryptocurrency platform Coinbase has earned the year’s largest valuation so far, with an $86 billion valuation following its direct listing.
Big Companies Going Public in 2022
As with every year, some of the biggest companies going public were lined up for the later half.
Tech will continue to be the talk of the markets. Payment processing firm Stripe was setting up to be the year’s biggest IPO with an estimated valuation of $95 billion, but got delayed. Likewise, online grocery delivery platform InstaCart, which saw a big upswing in traction due to the pandemic, has been looking to go public at a valuation of at least $39 billion.
Of course, it’s common that potential public listings and offerings fall through. Whether they get delayed due to weak market conditions or cancelled at the last minute, anything can happen when it comes to public markets.
This post has been updated as of January 1, 2022.
The World’s Biggest Startups: Top Unicorns of 2021
Here are the world’s biggest startups with a valuation above $10 billion.
The World’s Biggest Startups: Top Unicorns of 2021
Many entrepreneurs start businesses around the world, but only the most successful new companies become “unicorns”—the biggest startups with a valuation above $1 billion.
Some unicorns are little-known companies making quiet but impactful strides in software, healthcare, automotive, and other fields. Others have already become well-known industry leaders, like aerospace manufacturer SpaceX and game developer and publisher Epic Games.
In total, there are more than 800 unicorn startups globally. That said, this visualization specifically hones in on the world’s decacorns (unicorns with valuations above $10 billion) as of December 2021 according to CB Insights.
Private Startups Valued at Over $10 Billion
The world’s most prominent unicorns constantly see their valuations change as they enter different rounds of funding or maturity.
In December 2021, there were 35 startups with a valuation above $10 billion, spread out across different countries and industries.
|Canva||$40B||Australia||Internet software & services|
|Instacart||$39B||U.S.||Supply chain, logistics, & delivery|
|Databricks||$38B||U.S.||Data management & analytics|
|FTX||$25B||China (Hong Kong)||Fintech|
|Xiaohongshu||$20B||China||E-commerce & direct-to-consumer|
|J&T Express||$20B||Indonesia||Supply chain, logistics, & delivery|
|Fanatics||$18B||U.S.||E-commerce & direct-to-consumer|
|SHEIN||$15B||China||E-commerce & direct-to-consumer|
|goPuff||$15B||U.S.||E-commerce & direct-to-consumer|
|Grammarly||$13B||U.S.||Internet software & services|
|JUUL Labs||$12B||U.S.||Consumer & retail|
|GoodLeap||$12B||U.S.||Internet software & services|
|ZongMu Technology||$11.4B||China||Auto & transportation|
|Celonis||$11B||Germany||Data management & analytics|
|Weilong||$10.9B||China||Consumer & retail|
Many of the most valuable startups are already giants in their fields. For example, social media company Bytedance is the developer behind video network platform Douyin and its international version, TikTok, and has amassed a valuation of $140 billion.
Financial services and payment software company Stripe jumped from a valuation of $36 billion to $95 billion over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even less universally prominent names like Swedish fintech Klarna ($45.6 billion) and Australian graphic design platform Canva ($40.0 billion) are well known within their respective fields.
But private valuations don’t last forever. Many eventually go public, like electric vehicle maker and Tesla competitor Rivian, which had a valuation of $27.6 billion before listing on the NASDAQ.
The Biggest Startups by Industries and Countries
Breaking down the world’s biggest startups by industry highlights that tech is still king in most investing circles.
More than 77% of unicorns valued above $10 billion are categorized directly in tech-related fields, primarily in financial and commerce software.
|Startups Valued Above $10B By Industry||Number|
|E-commerce & direct-to-consumer||4|
|Internet software & services||3|
|Consumer & retail||2|
|Data management & analytics||2|
|Supply chain, logistics, & delivery||2|
|Auto & transportation||1|
And many of the unicorns categorized in non-tech fields are still technology companies at their core. In fact, Indonesia’s logistics and package delivery company J&T Express is one of the few unicorns not directly in tech, though it still uses automated sorting in its warehouses.
It was one of the few startups to come from somewhere other than the U.S. or China, which together accounted for over 70% of the 35 biggest startups. The UK (3) was the next most-frequently listed headquarters, while Australia, Brazil, Germany, India and Sweden each had one of these unicorns on the list.
With constantly fluctuating valuations and technological breakthroughs always around the corner, the next $10 billion unicorn could come from almost anywhere.
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