Rise of the askivist investor?

Oct 25, 2012

FORTUNE -- This has been a pretty slow year for large take-private acquisitions. All sorts of reasons: Smaller mega-buyout funds, economic forecasting difficulties, the unpopularity of private equity club deals, etc.

Large buyout firms, however, still have interest in publicly-traded companies. So don't be surprised if we begin seeing more and more minority transactions, in which private equity firms acquire 10% or 15% of a listed issuer and receive one or two board seats.

This isn't to say that The Carlyle Group or KKR are going to raise PIPE funds, or devote a majority of existing funds to such a strategy. Just that minority deals that have heretofore been uncommon will become a bit less so.

Sounds a bit like Bill Ackman or Carl Icahn, but the big difference is that the PE firms would be looking to work with existing management, rather than looking to have existing management thrown out. As one PE exec explained it: "We wouldn't have control like we normally do, so only would go somewhere we were wanted and where both sides thought we could bring something of value to the table."

In other words, no fiery letters or conference appearances designed to put the entire company up for sale. If that's the activist model, consider this the rise of the askivists...

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