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Carlyle's Rubenstein: Private equity has recovered

February 27, 2013: 3:48 AM ET

david_rubenstein-topWhat didn't kill private equity made it stronger.

FORTUNE -- David Rubeinstein, co-founder of The Carlyle Group (CG), believes that the private equity industry is stronger today than before the Great Recession.

Speaking at the SuperReturn International conference in Berlin, Rubenstein argued that private equity faced several serious threats in the wake of the Lehman Brothers collapse. Not only massive decreases in fundraising and deal-making, but also the possibilities of debilitating regulation, PE firm collapses and limited partners failing to meet capital commitments.

But both fundraising and deal-making have largely recovered, Rubenstein said, although the characteristics of each has shifted. The limited partner universe, for example, now includes much more participation from sovereign wealth funds and individual investors. Private equity deals now include larger equity commitments than in the past, and he rejected the argument of other conference speakers that credit markets are as frothy as they were back in 2006 or 2007.

Most of those other concerns, he added, failed to materialize. Regulators never seemed to deem private equity to be a systemic risk, while none of the industry's major players went out of business. Only a small handful of LP defaults were reported, and defaults of PE-backed businesses came at a much lower rate than for non-PE-backed businesses.

Such proven resiliency, Rubenstein said, has resulted in greater faith in private equity and better alignment between private equity funds and their investors. Basically, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

"The most important thing about private equity is that private equity returns still outpace all other readily available investment classes, and I think that will continue," Rubenstein concluded.

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Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Senior Editor, Fortune

Dan Primack joined Fortune.com in September 2010 to cover deals and dealmakers, from Wall Street to Sand Hill Road. Previously, Dan was an editor-at-large with Thomson Reuters, where he launched both peHUB.com and the peHUB Wire email service. In a past journalistic life, Dan ran a community paper in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He currently lives just outside of Boston.

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