Leaving The Home Office

Apologies for today’s light posting, but this afternoon I’m moderating a panel of buyout pros, here in Boston (event is sold out). Panelists are from Bain, Berkshire, Blackstone and Summit. Here’s my preliminary list of questions:

– We’ve seen a dramatic decline in deal sizes since last July, particularly among the larger deals. Does that mean that firms like Bain and Blackstone are going to begin regularly competing with firms like Berkshire and Summit, or do those (slightly) smaller firms also move downstream?

– A big advantage for private equity firms in 2005/2007 was access to cheap capital, which provided a competitive advantage over strategic buyers. Is that advantage now gone? If so, has it actually reversed, with strategics holding the upper hand in competitive auctions? Or will the macro-economic picture end up hitting the strategic pockets just as hard, and make them less willing to grow?

– We’ve heard a lot about how middle-market and large-market firms haven’t been hit too badly by the credit crunch, because they weren’t getting the same terms as the mega shops (PIK toggles, cov light, etc.). True? Have mega-firms adjusted to the new reality?

– We’ve seen nearly a dozen Chapter 11 filings from LBO-backed companies in the last month. Most of these were older deals that were probably on the edge, but what is your outlook for deals done over the past two years? Will we see a wave of portfolio companies that can’t serve their debt? Will sponsors step in to save the day, even though they technically don’t have to?

– What percentage of deals you did in 2006 and 2007 were overpriced, by reasonable standards?

– Do you expect a decline in young people entering the buyout market, if it’s no longer on the front pages every day?

– How will the new accounting rules affect PE firm activities, if at all?

– Has outside criticism of the PE industry (Congress, SEIU, etc.) had any tangible impact on the way business is being done?

I’ve got a bit more time… Any additional suggestions?