How can private equity help to turn around a business?

When a private equity group buys out a struggling company they are often seen simply as injecting finance that only adds to the debt on the company’s balance sheet without substantially improving its performance.

Nevertheless, the PE’s objective is surely to achieve a higher return for fund members on their investment and a recent article in the Economist (June 22 2013 edition) highlighted how a US-based company, Clayton, Dublier & Rice, operates post buy-out to achieve this.

This company not only puts in money, it calls on its collection of expert former corporate bosses, as partners in the Private Equity fund,  to go into the company either as chairman or chief executive and drive the restructuring process forward.

In the UK, private equity firms don’t really do this, yet it makes sense to get in the experts and incentivise them in a way that encourages them to get closely involved in and improve on the company’s operation.

If an improvement in performance, and therefore in profits, is driven by someone with the expertise as well as a financial interest in the outcome the likelihood of a successful restructuring  is arguably greater than it would be if the only interest is financial.

Successful turnarounds need fresh ideas, knowledge and hands-on involvement that are unlikely to be generated by the company’s existing directors and managers, who will likely struggle without them.

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