"There is a reason it's called private equity!".
If I had a pound for every time I have heard this from a private equity investor then I would be able to start my own mega buyout fund.
The industry has come a long way towards improving it's public image over the past 15 years, but there is still much to be done. Rather than see it as a threat, the industry should embrace a unique opportunity to explain the positive role it plays in driving economic growth and creating jobs.
I still find it fascinating how poorly perceived the private equity is in almost every country in the world. The famous 1980s image of the Barbarians At The Gate has just not gone away. This is despite the huge amounts of value that private equity has added to almost every industry sector in every corner of the world.
Eight of the top ten employers in the US are private equity owned companies. Billions of dollars are invested each year. Returns for private equity owned companies consistently out-perform the stock market. Almost everyone with a pension or investment fund benefits from having some direct or indirect private equity exposure in their portfolios.
None of this matters, however, as long as funds stay largely in the shadows. It is time for firms to come out and talk consistently about their investments, good and bad. Explain the value they add, what has worked and what has not. If the industry is not proactive in creating some sort of disclosure standard for all funds above a certain size then there is a very real chance the regulators will step in and do it for them.
The first rule of PR is never miss an opportunity to turn a challenge into an opportunity. We are reaching an inflexion point. It is time for the private equity industry to decide whether they want to seize the initiative or be a hostage to fortune.
It also raises a bigger question: is it time for voters and politicians to demand that private equity groups come out of the shadows and contribute more to public policy debates