Advisors are enjoying the GP-led party

Our annual survey of activity highlights the growing significance of manager-led transactions.


Hear that? That’s the sound of champagne corks flying across bars and restaurants in London, New York, Hong Kong and Zurich as secondaries advisors celebrate a stellar year of deal volume.

And who can blame them? Transaction volume reached a record high last year with as much as $58 billion traded, according to estimates by Greenhill Cogent. The big shift, as our annual advisory firm survey showed, was towards GP-led deals.

With the exception of Greenhill Cogent and Elm Capital, GP-leds or direct deals – broadly defined as anything other than an LP initiating the sale of its stake in a fund – accounted for between 50 percent and 100 percent of each advisor’s work last year.

It’s clear primary GPs are becoming increasingly comfortable with these deals. BC Partners’ head of investor relations management, Laura Coquis, said all primary GPs should consider secondaries, after her firm’s $1 billion stapled deal with Lexington Partners. Other high-profile managers such as Nordic Capital and Thomas H Lee Partners have either executed deals or are considering them, a sign there’s more to come.

The GP-led side of the market has come a long way in a short period of time. When Secondaries Investor surveyed firms about their 2015 activity, just 20 percent of Evercore’s deals were GP-leds, while now they’re around 50 percent; Elm didn’t work on any GP-leds in 2015 compared with the 18 percent it advised on last year; and almost three-quarters of Rede Partners’ deals in 2015 were GP-leds, which increased to 100 percent last year.

In addition to our analysis of the results (which you can find here), three things that grabbed our attention are as follows:

1  Greenhill Cogent is still leader of the pack…

…in terms of deal volume, that is. The advisory firm worked on a whopping $11.9 billion worth of deals last year, 90 percent of which were LP stakes. The firm has not ignored the GP-led side of the market – it is understood to be advising on at least one GP-led deal in southern Europe.

2  Three firms advised on more than half of the market

Greenhill Cogent, Evercore and Park Hill advised on around $30 billion-worth of deals, a sign the largest advisors aren’t ready to relinquish their share of the pie just yet.

3  Infrastructure took a back seat

When infrastructure deals close, they can be massive. Italian infrastructure fund manager F2i sealed a €3.1 billion first close on its third fund, seeding the new vehicle with assets from its maiden fund, and Ardian sold assets from its €1.1 billion AXA Infrastructure Fund II to APG and AXA in 2017. The asset class looks to have taken a slight dip last year: Campbell Lutyens was the only advisor to identify infrastructure specifically as an asset class it worked on, accounting for 19 percent of its deal volume, down from 35 percent in 2015.

How big can the GP-led part of the market get? Let us know: or @adamtuyenle