The best and worst of Wall Street 2011: V.C. and private equityDecember 12, 2011: 5:00 AM ET
FORTUNE -- The past year was harvest time in the private capital markets, as venture capital and buyout firms looked to sell long-held portfolio holdings or take them public. In addition to huge IPOs for HCA (HCA), LinkedIn (LNKD), and Groupon (GRPN), there were a few big surprise deals, like Microsoft's (MSFT) acquisition of Skype. Blackstone also had a good year And it was a time of stratification, in which top-tier firms easily raised new capital, while the rest wandered around in search of that one elusive home run. Here, a few of private capital's highs and lows. --Dan Primack
Co-founder, The Carlyle group
The Carlyle Group had some big wins this year, like the IPOs of portfolio companies Kinder Morgan (KMP) and Dunkin' Donuts (DNKN), but its biggest moves were internal, making it the world's largest private equity firm. It added a fund-of-funds division with $42 billion Dutch manager AlpInvest, a mid-market lending platform in Churchill Financial, and a minority stake in investment bank Sandler O'Neill. David Rubenstein is the driving force behind those deals, and also behind Carlyle's IPO, slated for next year.
Senior managing director, Baring Vostok Capital Partners
As the global tech market was tumbling in 2000, Elena Ivashentseva, a partner at Russian investment firm Baring Vostok, spent months researching a Russian startup called Yandex. The company had less than $100,000 in revenue and no full-time CEO, but Ivashentseva invested at a then-staggering valuation of $15 million. Smart move. Yandex (YNDX) made its debut on the Nasdaq this year, and Baring Vostok made $156 million. It still holds approximately $1.24 billion worth of Yandex shares.
Managing partner, New Enterprise Associates
When Peter Barris invested in The Point four years ago, he didn't know how it would make money. He was simply convinced that the idea of using the Internet to leverage collective action was too powerful to pass up. His firm would ultimately invest a total of $14.8 million into what would evolve into Groupon. When the daily deals giant went public this past October, NEA's investment was worth more than $1.8 billion.
Partner, Greylock Partners
When Reid Hoffman joined Greylock Partners in 2009, some wondered how much time he would actually spend as a venture capitalist. After all, he was an active angel investor who still served as chairman of the Greylock portfolio company he had founded, LinkedIn. But not only has Hoffman been a driving force at Greylock, he arguably has remade the 46-year-old firm in his image.
First, Greylock launched a seed-stage investing program. Then Greylock began hiring fellow LinkedIn vets like Adam Nash, D.J. Patil and Josh Ellman. Not to mention ex-Mozilla CEO John Lilly, on whose board Hoffman had sat. Oh, and Hoffman also became a billionaire when LinkedIn went public earlier this year.
Marc Andreessen & Ben Horowitz
Co-founding partners, Andreessen Horowitz
Marc is the intuitive visionary and Ben is the understanding operator. Together they've created Silicon Valley's hottest venture capital firm in just over two years time. Andreessen Horowitz not only gets into all the hottest tech deals, but it also soon will have raised a total of $1.8 billion in fund capital from institutional investors who typically refuse to even return calls from new firms.
More importantly, Andreessen Horowitz this year began to see some actual returns. It generated PE-type multiples on the sale of Skype to Microsoft, and saw portfolio companies Fusion-io (FIO), Groupon and (coming soon) Zynga all go public. Still-private investments include Foursquare and Twitter.
Managing director, Argonaut Private Equity
Private investors will lose some $1 billion on Solyndra, the failed solar-cell maker that has become an albatross around President Obama's neck, but no firm will lose more than Argonaut Private Equity, which invested more than $270 million in equity. Mitchell led this deal for Argonaut and sat on Solyndra's board.
CEO, Patriarch Partners
The "distressed diva" began 2011 with plans to star in a reality series that would show her turning companies around. Her year ended like a Jersey Shore rerun. A major portfolio company went bankrupt, and her firm was found guilty of "fraudulent inducement." Predictably enough, the TV show is now on hold.
Ex-CEO, Private Equity Growth Capital Council
Lowenstein was the debut CEO of private equity's first real trade association, with major industry names as members. But the veteran lobbyist wasn't a terribly effective manager, nor was he influential enough to shape Dodd-Frank legislation. He got the boot in August.
The best and worst of Wall Street 2011
- Venture capital and private equity
- Hedge funds
- Mutual funds
This article is from the December 26, 2011 issue of Fortune.