Smart Institutions, Foolish Choices? The Limited Partner Performance Puzzle

Josh Lerner, Antoinette Schoar, Wan Wong

NBER Working Paper No. 11136
Issued in February 2005
NBER Program(s):Asset Pricing, Corporate Finance

The returns that institutional investors realize from private equity investments differ dramatically across institutions. Using detailed and hitherto unexplored records of fund investors and performance, we document large heterogeneity in the performance of different classes of limited partners. In particular, endowments' annual returns are nearly 14% greater than average. Funds selected by investment advisors and banks lag sharply. These results are robust to controlling for the type and year of the investment, as well as to the use of different specifications. Analyses of reinvestment decisions and young funds suggest that the results are not primarily due to endowments' greater access to established funds. Finally, we examine the differences in the choice of intermediaries across various institutional investors and their relationship to success. We find that LPs that have higher average IRRs also tend to invest in older funds and have a smaller fraction of GPs in their geographic area, and that the performance of university endowments is correlated with measures of the quality and loyalty of the student body.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w11136

Published: Lerner, Josh, Antoinette Schoar and Wan Wong. "Smart Institutions, Foolish Choices?: The Limited Partner Performance Puzzle." Journal of Finance 62 (2007): 731-764. citation courtesy of

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