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Private Equity Performance: Returns, Persistence and Capital Flows


  • Kaplan, Steve
  • Schoar, Antoinette


This paper investigates the performance of private equity partnerships using a data set of individual fund returns collected by Venture Economics. Over the sample period, average fund returns net of fees approximately equal the S&P 500 although there is a large degree of heterogeneity among fund returns. Returns persist strongly across funds raised by individual private equity partnerships. The returns also improve with partnership experience. Better performing funds are more likely to raise follow-on funds and raise larger funds than funds that perform poorly. This relationship is concave so that top performing funds do not grow proportionally as much as the average fund in the market. At the industry level, we show that market entry in the private equity industry is cyclical. Funds (and partnerships) started in boom times are less likely to raise follow-on funds, suggesting that these funds subsequently perform worse. Aggregate industry returns are lower following a boom, but most of this effect is driven by the poor performance of new entrants, while the returns of established funds are much less affected by these industry cycles. Several of these results differ markedly from those for mutual funds.

Suggested Citation

  • Kaplan, Steve & Schoar, Antoinette, 2004. "Private Equity Performance: Returns, Persistence and Capital Flows," Working papers 4446-03, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  • Handle: RePEc:mit:sloanp:5050

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Brown, Stephen J & Goetzmann, William N & Ibbotson, Roger G, 1999. "Offshore Hedge Funds: Survival and Performance, 1989-95," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 72(1), pages 91-117, January.
    2. Khorana, Ajay & Servaes, Henri, 1999. "The Determinants of Mutual Fund Starts," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 12(5), pages 1043-1074.
    3. Gompers, Paul & Lerner, Josh, 2000. "Money chasing deals? The impact of fund inflows on private equity valuation," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(2), pages 281-325, February.
    4. Lerner, Josh & Schoar, Antoinette, 2004. "The illiquidity puzzle: theory and evidence from private equity," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 3-40, April.
    5. Erik R. Sirri & Peter Tufano, 1998. "Costly Search and Mutual Fund Flows," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 53(5), pages 1589-1622, October.
    6. Jonathan B. Berk & Richard C. Green, 2004. "Mutual Fund Flows and Performance in Rational Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(6), pages 1269-1295, December.
    7. Paul A. Gompers & Josh Lerner, 1999. "What Drives Venture Capital Fundraising?," NBER Working Papers 6906, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Gompers, Paul & Lerner, Josh, 1999. "An analysis of compensation in the U.S. venture capital partnership," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 3-44, January.
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    private equity partnerships; fund returns;


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