STEPHEN CRANSTON: Is it private equity’s time?


Private equity has struggled with its reputation ever since Barbarians at the Gate was published in the late 1980s. At around the same time Michael Douglas won an Oscar portraying Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. Henry Kravis, founder of global investment firm KKR, was portrayed in the book (a film followed) as another follower of the "Greed is good" philosophy, buying companies, firing most of the workforce and living in luxury off the massive profits. The book focused on the biggest deal to date: the buyout of cigarette and biscuit giant RJR Nabisco. Of course that isn’t the way to attract investors in the age of responsible investing, especially in the developing economies of Southern Africa.

And there is still a conflict between the long-term stewardship normally expected of shareholders and the private equity "clock". They usually put a coat of paint on a company and sell it on within seven years.