P. Klein, J. Chapman, and M. Mondelli
Academy of Management Perspectives, Forthcoming (Abstract)
Private equity (PE) is best understood not as a financing method, but as governance structure, one that emphasizes strong performance incentives, rules over discretion, and a strong alignment between ownership and management. Briefly, PE governance makes owners into active managers and makes managers behave like owners. As such, PE is often regarded as a more «entrepreneurial» form of governance than that associated with the publicly traded corporation. We argue for a balanced view in which PE is best regarded as a governance structure which, like all forms of organization, has benefits and costs that vary according to circumstances. Building on the «judgment-based» view of entrepreneurship, we note that managers of privately held firms, as owners, exercise a strong degree of entrepreneurial judgment over the use assets, unlike salaried executives of publicly held companies. At the same time, however, privately held firms are often constrained from pursuing potentially attractive profit opportunities by the nature of their debt obligations. PE is not a panacea, and buyouts do not necessarily generate the typical outward markers of innovation such as patents, employment growth, and the establishment of new enterprises.