Private equity is a type of investment where professional investors raise a large fund (generally from affluent investors) and reinvest those funds in a wide range of ways, seeking the biggest possible profit. Firms in this somewhat risky industry often grab headlines for large acquisitions, sometimes controversial leveraged buyouts, and occasionally going bust and losing billions of dollars. But among many of these would-be titans of finance, a handful of firms have risen to the top as the largest and most successful private equity firms.
Private equity firms earn a spot on this list by growing a large fund or funds that typically lead to consistent profits over time. Considering fundraising over the past five years, total assets under management, and similar criteria, here are the best private equity firms operating today.
Even those with little interest in Wall Street have likely heard of Blackstone. The company is headquartered in New York and holds offices in major financial centers around the world. This company offers a wide range of investment products and services, including private equity, real estate, hedge funds, and credit.
Founded by two brothers in 1985, Blackstone has ballooned to become the largest private equity firm in the world. Because Blackstone is a public company, you can buy shares on the New York Stock Exchange under ticker BX.
Blackstone claims $648 billion under management and employs over 2,400 staff. It raised $58.3 billion over the past five years. Its 95 portfolio companies earn more than $79 billion in annual revenue and employ 470,000 people. Portfolio companies include Vivint, Scout 24, Service King Collision Repair Centers, and Versace.
With $429 billion in assets under management and $40.1 billion in raised funds over the past five years, the Carlyle Group is a major force in the financial industry. The group was founded in 1987, trades on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol CG, and is headquartered in Washington, D.C.
Major business lines at the Carlyle Group include private equity, real estate, global credit, and investment solutions. Carlyle focuses on 10 core industries that it considers its areas of expertise. It employs 1,600 people in its offices around the world.
Carlyle’s more than 200 portfolio companies stretch across industries such as aerospace, health care, technology, and energy. Those companies employ a combined 650,000 workers on every continent but Antarctica. While they are not all household names, major investments include Centennial Resource Production, DiscoverOrg Holding, Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics, the Nature’s Bounty, Veritas Holdings, and Wesco Aircraft Holdings.
Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, known as KKR, has raised $41.6 billion in the past five years and manages $429 billion in total assets. KKR traces its roots back to 1976 and was a major force in the infamous leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco, chronicled in the bestselling book Barbarians at the Gate.
The public can buy into Kohlberg Kravis Roberts on the New York Stock Exchange under symbol KKR. Like other large private equity firms, KKR is involved in several areas of business, including real estate, hedge funds, credit, and other financial services.
KKR has 1,300 employees and is headquartered in New York City. Portfolio companies include some big names, like First Data, GoDaddy, Lyft, PEMEX Midstream, UFC, and others. A recent investment that drew KKR to the headlines was Toys ‘R Us, which filed for bankruptcy and shut down more than 800 stores in 2018.
Fort Worth, Texas–based TPG Capital raised $36.1 billion in the past five years. It holds its second headquarters in San Francisco. Formerly known as Texas Pacific Group, the firm manages a portfolio of more than $96 billion in assets through private equity, real estate, credit, and hedge fund divisions.
The company was founded in 1992 and has completed more than 175 transactions. Major holdings include computer security company McAfee. Major investments include Neiman Marcus, Harrah’s Entertainment, First Data, and Univision Communications.
With TPG’s dual headquarters in the hearts of oil country and Silicon Valley, it is no surprise to see energy and technology as two of the company’s top focus industries. Other industries include retail, health care, real estate, and industrials.
With $276 billion in assets under management and $24 billion raised in the past five years, New York–based Apollo Global Management joined the private equity scene in 1990. Apollo is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under symbol APO.
This global firm employs 1,100 people and is known for leveraged buyouts and buying distressed companies. Since inception, it has held more than 150 portfolio companies. Those companies include ADT, Claire’s, Caesars Entertainment, CareerBuilder, Qdoba, and Rackspace.
Half of Apollo’s investments come from public pensions and sovereign wealth funds. This is evidence that many large and sophisticated investors put a lot of trust in Apollo.
Bain Capital manages $140 billion in assets and raised $18.2 billion in new funds over the past five years. Founded in 1983, Bain is based in Boston and employs more than 1,000 people at its global offices. Bain is partially known for co-founder Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee and now a U.S. Senator from Utah.
This private equity firm operates in credit, public equity, venture capital, and real estate markets. Some major brands that have passed through the Bain portfolio in the past decade or so include Clear Channel Communications, Canada Goose, Virgin Holidays Cruises, and Bugaboo International. Other major past holdings include Staples, Sports Authority, Guitar Center, Gymboree, Houghton Mifflin, Domino’s Pizza, Burger King, the Weather Channel, and Brookstone.
Fund expertise areas include the socially conscious Bain Capital Double Impact division, Bain Capital Life Sciences, and Bain Capital Real Estate. Looking at Bain’s past portfolio, you can also see a preference for retail, restaurants, and other consumer brands.
New York City–based Warburg Pincus was founded in 1966. With 1,000 employees, the company manages a $64 billion private equity portfolio and has made more than 835 investments in its long history.
In the past five years, Warburg Pincus has attracted $30.8 billion in new capital. This firm is organized into the energy, financial, health care and consumer, industrial and business services, and technology, media, and telecommunications sectors. Some noteworthy investments include 1&1 Hosting, Avaya, PayScale, Mariner Finance, and a wide range of foreign firms.
This private equity firm was founded in 1981 and has 500 employees in 24 global offices. CVC Capital Partners is headquartered in Luxembourg, placing it within a unique set of European laws. It was the largest non-U.S. private equity firm in terms of funds raised over the past five years, at $19.9 billion.
CVC Capital manages $114.8 billion in assets. It focuses primarily on private equity and credit. While it has a more boutique focus, CVC is anything but a boutique firm. It originated as the European division of Citicorp Venture Capital before becoming its own company in 1993.
The firm has 61 current portfolio companies. Major investments have included Formula One Group, Petco, Avast, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Breitling, Republic Finance, Pilot Flying J, Samsonite, Skrill, and others.