Private Equity Investors

According to the financial press, private equity investors are holding huge sums waiting for the right private company in which to invest.  In late March, CNBC reported that private equity firms have a staggering $1.5 trillion in cash on hand (more than double the amount from five years ago) and that they are actively seeking deals in the travel, entertainment and energy industries.   In April, Vanity Fair stated that in each of the past four years, private equity managers have raised more then $500 billion for investment, and noted that from 2013 to 2018, more private equity deals took place than in any five year time frame in American history.

Private equity firms are not the only ones who are making investments in private companies.  Angel investors and others are stepping up to fund privately held businesses, and there are many documented success stories of individual investors who have struck platinum with their private company investments.   It is is also true, however, that a sizable number of fast growing private companies hit the rocks and burned through all or most of the funds that were invested in them.

The purpose of this blog post is not to help pick private company winners—that is a topic for others with the ability to discern which companies have the best ideas, management teams and the staying power to succeed on a long-term basis.  But picking a successful private company is only part of the story.   A private company’s success will not automatically make an investment in the business a success if the company’s governance documents do not provide the investor with a measure of protection on several important fronts.  This blog post therefore focuses on the critical terms that an investor will want to secure in the company’s governance documents before actually making a substantial investment in the company.
Continue Reading Looking Past the Face of the Shiny Penny: Check the Fine Print of All Private Company Investments

By Sam Vinson and Ladd Hirsch

In his famous “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy, Hamlet anguished over whether his future was worth living. [1] Hopefully, private company founders picture a future less bleak than Hamlet’s grim outlook. When the founders of fast-growing private companies accept new investment capital, however, they need to consider the future of the resulting ownership structure of the business, particularly when the financing involves issuing new company shares.

When a private equity investment is made in a private company, a balance must be struck between the competing interests of the company’s founders, on one hand, and the private equity or venture capital firm (the “PE investor”) on the other. From the PE investor’s perspective, an investment in a private company makes sense only if the founders maintain their continued commitment to the company’s success. Once the investment is made, founders will want to make sure they have an exit plan in place that provides them with ample rewards when they depart based on the financial success (hopefully) they helped the company to achieve.

This balancing of interests between founders and PE investors is often handled through a vesting process regarding the founders’ stock or equity ownership. This post, therefore, focuses on the use of vesting schedules by private companies when issuing stock. Ideally, the use of vesting schedules that apply to stock ownership is complimented by buy/sell exit planning, i.e., founders will want to secure some type of a buy/sell agreement that permits them to monetize their interest in the company at the time of their exit.
Continue Reading “To Vest, or Not to Vest” —The Question for Company Founders Who Receive Equity/Stock In Connection with a New Private Equity Investment in the Business

Part 1 of this series focused on how private company owners can make their businesses attractive to private equity (PE) investors like those on the hit TV show “Shark Tank.” The discussion picks up after the PE firm has made its investment and the Post considers what steps private company owners can take to get the most out of their business relationship with the PE investor.

As a starting point, it is critical for the business owner to appreciate that PE firms are not lenders, and that a PE investment is not similar to a loan.  Lenders want to be sure that the company operates efficiently enough to repay the debt with interest.  By contrast, by investing in the business, PE investors secure an ownership stake in the company, they are seeking to achieve a much more robust return on their investment than simple interest, and they will be much more hands-on regarding the company’s business plan, operations and financial performance.
Continue Reading Swimming with the Sharks (Part 2): Don’t Become Chum in the Water After Receiving a PE Investment

For years, use of the term shark in a business context referred to unsavory characters such as shady lenders, sketchy lawyers and unscrupulous business people.  More recently, the success of the hit reality TV show “Shark Tank,” has given sharks a Hollywood make-over, and a more positive image.  The Shark Tank show features small business owners as contestants who present their needs for capital to a panel of rich investors (the sharks), including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.  Larger companies also need access to capital at times to fuel their growth, and this Post focuses on the ways business owners can make their companies attractive to private equity investors (the sharks).
Continue Reading Swimming with the Sharks (Part 1): Attracting Private Equity Investment in Your Business