Putting together lists is part of the business of business magazines. You've got your standard Fortune 500 for companies, Forbes 400 for wealthy people, and the Wired 40 for tech and innovation. But that only gets each magazine through one issue a year. Combine the laziness of editors with the reading public's appetite for lists, and you've got a recipe for endless lists. Last month saw Forbes' "Midas List" of hot shot venture capitalists. And now we've got Fortune's "Private Equity Power List."
Well, it seems we're not the only ones tired of tired lists. The new Fortune list, which hits the newsstands next week but is up on the magazine's website right now, is getting some pretty bad reviews.
DealBook complains that the list lacks fun, especially in its allegedly "fun facts" section.
For our part, we were a bit underwhelmed by the “fun fact” included for each the 10 entries in Fortune’s list. Most of them are not particularly fun, especially compared with previous eras. (Nothing like, say, Drexel Burnham Lambert’s Jeff “Mad Dog” Beck eating a whole box of Milk Bone dog treats while discussing a deal with RJR Nabisco chief Ross Johnson in 1986.) Maybe that’s a sign of a new seriousness in American business. Or bad-tasting dog biscuits. Or something.
Dan Primack has a bit more of a substantive complaint—the list is based on nothing short of fund size. So it's not really measuring anything like "power." Just fund raising prowess. And maybe there's a difference.
This list seems to do little more than rank firms in order of latest fund size. First-place Blackstone has a bigger fund than second-place KKR, which has a larger fund than third-place Carlyle, and so on. It’s also worth noting that “latest fund size”’ is really used collectively by Fortune. For example, it says that Bain Capital’s last fund netted $13 billion, but this actually includes the following current investment vehicles: $8 billion core fund, $2 billion co-investment fund, $1.2 billion European fund, $1 billion Asia fund and $1 billion employee co-invest fund (and, yes, it should therefore total $13.2 billion).
The only thing that gives me pause is the absence of either Goldman Sachs or Permira in the Fortune list, since both have fund sizes large enough to deserve inclusion. Or how about First Reserve? Were they simply forgotten, or were other metrics in play?