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Private Equity Performance: A Survey


  • Berk A. Sensoy

    (Department of Finance, Fisher College of Business, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210)

  • Steven N. Kaplan

    (Booth School of Business, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637; and National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138)


We survey the literature on private equity performance, focusing on venture capital and buyout funds rather than on portfolio companies. We describe recent findings on performance measures, average fund returns, risk adjustments, cyclicality and liquidity, persistence, interim returns and self-reported net asset values, the performance of different types of investors in funds, and the links between management contracts and fund returns. Buyout funds have outperformed the S&P 500 net of fees on average by approximately 20% over the life of the fund. Venture capital funds raised in the 1990s outperformed the S&P 500, whereas those raised in the 2000s underperformed. The results are consistent across a number of data sets and papers. Before the 2000s, buyout and venture capital fund performance showed strong evidence of persistence. Since 2000, buyout fund persistence has declined, whereas venture capital fund persistence has remained equally strong.

Suggested Citation

  • Berk A. Sensoy & Steven N. Kaplan, 2015. "Private Equity Performance: A Survey," Annual Review of Financial Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 7(1), pages 597-614, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:anr:refeco:v:7:y:2015:p:597-614
    DOI: 10.1146/annurev-financial-111914-041858

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    Cited by:

    1. Block, Joern & Fisch, Christian & Vismara, Silvio & Andres, René, 2019. "Private equity investment criteria: An experimental conjoint analysis of venture capital, business angels, and family offices," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 329-352.
    2. Aleksandar Andonov & Roman Kräussl & Joshua Rauh, 2018. "The Subsidy to Infrastructure as an Asset Class," NBER Working Papers 25045, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Shawn Cole & Martin Melecky & Florian Mölders & Tristan Reed, 2020. "Long-run Returns to Impact Investing in Emerging Markets and Developing Economies," NBER Working Papers 27870, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Brown, Gregory & Harris, Robert & Hu, Wendy & Jenkinson, Tim & Kaplan, Steven N. & Robinson, David T., 2021. "Can investors time their exposure to private equity?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 139(2), pages 561-577.

    More about this item


    contracts; performance; persistence; private equity; returns; risk;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • G24 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Investment Banking; Venture Capital; Brokerage
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates


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