Private Equity Exit Opportunities

calikid3820's picture
Rank: Orangutan | 250

I am trying to figure out what opportunities exist out there AFTER a stint in Private Equity. Do people leave PE firms after 5-10 years to start companies? Or to be a CFO/CEO of a company? Retire? VC?

There are 100s of topics on getting to Private Equity but I haven't found a decent discussion on where people go from there, or what they move on to utilizing their PE experience.

To first understand what Private Equity is all about, check out WSO's detailed guide to Private Equity and how to get into Private Equity in the first place.

What Do People Pursue After Private Equity?

After a stint in PE, the path forward is much less defined. At this point in your career the choice is yours. That being said here are some avenues that a junior employee may explore after private equity.


MBA to Private Equity Partner Track

After two years in private equity you can pursue a MBA and then return to private equity. A post MBA associate may return to their previous firm or move to another firm. Following that, the post MBA associate would seek a vice president position if the end goal is to stay in private equity and pursue the partner track.

The common theme among partner track PE seems to be either

  • you joined a relatively new fund or start-up fund that were actively looking for junior people to stay on and build a career or
  • smaller fund that is relatively low on senior professionals and has room to add on future principals/partners

The catch-22 is that the bigger the fund, and bigger you get (i.e. firms that are raising larger follow on funds), it is a better name brand and experience for the associates, but they are likely to be staffed up top and cannot economically justify having more future senior professionals and further cut up GP carry.


PE to MBA to Corporate Strategy

Alternatively, the MBA can be used to transition into a structured corporate development program. Some may pursue a position in corporate strategy or operations.

To understand more about corporate strategy, read more on the Corporate Strategy Career Path or breaking into the Corp Strat industry. If interested specifically at tech firms, check out WSO's thread on Corporate Strategy at Tech Firms.

PE to the Buyside

Another path forward is moving to another part of the buyside. These options include going to a hedge fund, venture capital firm or even a family office is not unheard of.

For the hedge fund route, it may make sense if you like public markets more than working on (mostly) private transactions. The challenges involved in a HF are different than those involved in PE (more process oriented). Check out this WSO thread on the transition from PE to HF.

Read More About PE on WSO

Interviewing for Private Equity Jobs?

Want to land at an elite private equity fund try our comprehensive PE Interview Prep Course. Our course includes 2,447 questions across 203 private equity funds that have been crowdsourced from over 500,000 members. The WSO Private Equity Interview Prep Guide has everything you'll ever need to land the most coveted jobs on Wall Street.

Private Equity Interview Course

Comments (34)

Funniest
Jan 4, 2013

you become a mythical Greek god.

    • 7
Best Response
Jan 4, 2013
Oreos:

you become a mythical Greek god.

Apollo? haha

    • 6
Jan 4, 2013

Run for President?

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Jan 4, 2013

I've seen a surprisingly large number go back into investment banking, often times at their old firms.

Jan 4, 2013
moneymogul:

I've seen a surprisingly large number go back into investment banking, often times at their old firms.

Never seen this ever, not sure what fund you're at but even those not in PE (i.e. VC/FoF/Corp dev) associates have told me they would rather work any other job than go back to banking.

Answer is: Totally depends. A decent number continue onwards because at the carry level, it's a cushy job that's hard to fuck up at. Even if your fund closes, many of the partners have made enough to retire. Senior advisor and CEO/CFO of a portfolio company make up a bit more of the PE guys who leave. Lots more at the junior level go on to HFs or MBAs.

Some start their own companies, work in cushy jobs in family offices or just hop onto 5+ board of director seats and go into half-retirement.

Learn More

9 LBO Modeling Tests, 10+ hours of PE Cases and 2,447+ interview insights across 203 private equity funds. The WSO Private Equity Interview Prep Course has everything you'll ever need to break into the competitive PE industry. Learn more.

Jan 4, 2013

very interested as well

Jan 4, 2013

How many "exit opportunities" are you guys looking to have defined for you? There needs to come a point in your career where you make your own opportunities,

    • 2
Jan 5, 2013
SirTradesaLot:

How many "exit opportunities" are you guys looking to have defined for you? There needs to come a point in your career where you make your own opportunities,

::golf clap::

People need to stop asking for their lives to be laid out for them. Uncertainty is not a bad thing, folks. In fact, I'd argue that uncertainty is a necessity at some point if you're going to truly have a successful business career. Otherwise, you'll just be a mindless drone, incapable of making your own decisions and staking your own claim.

To add, if you do PE for a few years after a stint in banking, you'll be around 27 / 28 years old, you ought to be ready to face some uncertainty at that point. I have a good friend of mine who did two years in PE after working in banking for three years. He took about three months off and is now working for a growing oil & gas fracking company and is absolutely loving life. He embraced uncertainty and is in a great spot right now.

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Feb 13, 2018

I appreciate what you both said here - albeit I am seeing this five years later. However the point of these forums are not to determine people's career paths but rather inform them of opportunities they may not be aware of...since you know...most of them are either first or second year bankers or...even more likely...are in college.

Learn More

9 LBO Modeling Tests, 10+ hours of PE Cases and 2,447+ interview insights across 203 private equity funds. The WSO Private Equity Interview Prep Course has everything you'll ever need to break into the competitive PE industry. Learn more.

Jan 4, 2013
SanityCheck:

Never seen this ever, not sure what fund you're at but even those not in PE (i.e. VC/FoF/Corp dev) associates have told me they would rather work any other job than go back to banking.

I've spent a couple summers at BBs and lots of networking events. Not at a fund, just met associates and VPs that went into PE/HFs and ended up back in banking somehow. More common at lower tier firms, but I met one who did an analyst stint at a top firm several years ago, 2 years at a top PE shop, then spent a couple years at an HF since he didn't want to go to b-school and I'm assuming fizzled out and ended up back in banking as an associate. Wasn't brave enough to ask why for obvious reasons.

    • 1
Sep 7, 2016

That is dark

Jan 4, 2013
SirTradesaLot:

How many "exit opportunities" are you guys looking to have defined for you? There needs to come a point in your career where you make your own opportunities,

I totally agree but I was just curious what the "norm" is or if anyone ever leaves PE... I know at this point it is the carrot at the end of a long stick for me. Preferably Growth Equity but I was just curious if anyone knows anyone and can share

how common is it for the more senior VP/MD kind of guys to do the "half retirment" and sit on some company boards?

Jan 5, 2013

You could search LinkedIn past employment, if you're interested in specific funds.

I just checked out the one I am joining, most people stayed in PE, one went back to their old firm after getting an MBA, a few others were in HSW, a couple entrepreneurs. Pretty much what I expected,

Aug 14, 2014

bump. Can anyone provide some additional insight into this? Many PE associate programs are 2-3 years and out. What do most high-performing associates do after?

Aug 14, 2014

This was discussed extensively a few weeks ago in a different thread. In that thread many came to the conclusion that many if not most PE associates eventually end up in Corp Dev jobs.

Aug 14, 2014

after several years in PE, one is expected to trascend the physical world into an ethereal immortality/godlike state

Aug 14, 2014

Look at the skills most people have - deal experience, management experience, financial and accounting experience, deep networks in all of these sectors. Then look at where those are most useful, and there are your "exit opps".

Honestly I feel like after spending a couple years in private equity you have so much experience, qualifications and connections that you're pretty much set to do whatever you want - corpdev, banking, C-level roles, board director, entrepreneur, consultant, investment management, etc.

At that point in your life you should be having opportunities come up all the time anyways, given the connections you have, and if not it's pretty easy to hunt them down. You're an asset, go do whatever you want.

    • 1
Aug 14, 2014

That's what you think in your brain. But can you back it up with real numbers and real people in the real world?

Aug 14, 2014

"Real numbers" don't mean anything in this case, because where you go in your career is based on your own individual circumstances. Even if one was able to find numbers that said "x% of people in PE go into corpdev" that doesn't mean anything to you individually if you don't have any connections or opportunities come up in your individual network to get you into that role.

This isn't like banking to PE where one can be like "x% of BB banking analysts get jobs in PE" where it gauges your possibility as a BB analyst to get into PE. The real world doesn't really have career tracks like that; banking and PE recruiting at that level are pretty much exceptions. So people who are in those recruiting channels start thinking of a career as a set of hoops to jump through, and use threads like this to gauge their probability of being able to jump through them, and try to figure out what the next hoops on the career track are.

In reality your career is based on what you know and who you know. I don't need "real numbers" to back up that obviously true statement.

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Aug 14, 2014

An old friend of mine is a VP at a big (but not 'mega') fund. He was just telling me a couple months ago that if he wanted to leave PE (he does not) he could go run biz dev at a company, go to a hedge fund, go do corporate strategy ... same stuff mentioned above. But the people asking "what are the exits from PE" are mostly people who probably won't get into PE, I'm sure.

Aug 14, 2014
prospie:

An old friend of mine is a VP at a big (but not 'mega') fund. He was just telling me a couple months ago that if he wanted to leave PE (he does not) he could go run biz dev at a company, go to a hedge fund, go do corporate strategy ... same stuff mentioned above. But the people asking "what are the exits from PE" are mostly people who probably won't get into PE, I'm sure.

The problem is that most PE associates won't make it to VP. The "what are the exits from PE" question is very relevant at the associate level, maybe not as much at the VP level.

Aug 14, 2014
HedgeKing:

The problem is that most PE associates won't make it to VP. The "what are the exits from PE" question is very relevant at the associate level, maybe not as much at the VP level.

I'm a little surprised to hear that about "most," but I'm not informed enough to argue that.

Dec 1, 2014
prospie:

An old friend of mine is a VP at a big (but not 'mega') fund. He was just telling me a couple months ago that if he wanted to leave PE (he does not) he could go run biz dev at a company, go to a hedge fund, go do corporate strategy ... same stuff mentioned above. But the people asking "what are the exits from PE" are mostly people who probably won't get into PE, I'm sure.

so because someone is asking about paths after PE...

means they wont get in?

lolwut

May 23, 2016

wrr

May 23, 2016

I don't think 2-3 year PE associate is qualified to be a Board member at a well-established company. VP level experience is where one start to get observer rights and maybe Board seats.

Sep 10, 2016

why would you not just go to medical school or something if you washed out....going back to banking sounds so miserable

Sep 10, 2016

Tough to speculate but I do have a friend who was doing FoF for awhile and he has had great exposure to partners at various funds. At this point, you should take any respectable job offer you can as it is pretty ugly out there and will likely continue to get worse as the industry consolidates.

Sep 10, 2016
junkbondswap:

Tough to speculate but I do have a friend who was doing FoF for awhile and he has had great exposure to partners at various funds. At this point, you should take any respectable job offer you can as it is pretty ugly out there and will likely continue to get worse as the industry consolidates.

I second the "respectable job offer" motion. Not only are they harder and harder to come by, I would think that you couldn't ask for better exposure on a constant basis to potential future job opportunities.

Good luck.

Sep 10, 2016

I don't have banking experience, but I do deal with agents a lot and count some as close friends. I know people within large bank shops have been able to move around, say into banking at times (this may be an exception). I know one guy has interned for a client. Others have joined PE/HF shops to do IR. Some of gone to do FoF or become consultants.

Hope this helps (know this is general). I think there is a thread somewhere on placement agents and potential career paths...

Dec 4, 2016
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Feb 14, 2018
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