That there is much trouble in the private equity market is clear and well-documented. No credit available for signed deals. Private equity partners suing each other. Shareholders suing funds. The troubles will likely continue for some time.
On Sunday, the NY Times ran this column with some interesting remarks from Michael Jensen, professor emeritus at the Harvard Business School, leading scholar in finance and management, and the man whom many consider to be the intellectual father of private equity. Here is an excerpt:
“We are going to see bad deals that have been done that are not publicly known as bad deals yet, we will have scandals, reputations will decline and people are going to be left with a bad taste in their mouths,” Mr. Jensen said in an interview last week. “The whole sector will decline.”
Mr. Jensen was elaborating on the trenchant comments he made last month in a forum on private equity convened by the Academy of Management. There, he excoriated private equity titans who sell stock in their companies to the public — a non sequitur in both language and economics, he said — and warned that industry “innovations,” like deal fees that encourage private equity managers to overpay for companies, will destroy value at these firms, not create it.
He also said that private equity managers who sell overvalued company shares to the public, whether in their own entities or in businesses they have bought and are repeddling, are breaching their duties to those buying the stocks.
“The owners who are selling the equity are in effect giving their word to the market that the equity is really worth what it is being priced at,” he said. “But the attitude on Wall Street is that there is no responsibility to the buyers of the equity on the part of the managers who are doing the selling. And that’s a recipe for nonworkability and value destruction.”