Research / BFI Working PaperJan 30, 2023

The Market for CEOs: Evidence from Private Equity

Paul A. Gompers, Steven Neil Kaplan, Vladimir Mukharlyamov

Most research on the CEO labor market studies public company CEOs while largely ignoring CEOs in private equity (PE) funded companies. We fill this gap by studying the market for CEOs among U.S. companies purchased by PE firms in large leveraged buyout transactions. 71% of those companies hired new CEOs under PE ownership. More than 75% of the new CEOs are external hires with 67% being complete outsiders. These results are strikingly different from studies of public companies, particularly, Cziraki and Jenter (2022) who find that 72% of new CEOs in S&P 500 companies are internal promotions. The most recent experience of 67% of the outside CEOs was at a public company with almost 50% of external hires having some previous experience at an S&P 500 firm. We estimate the total compensation of buyout CEOs and find that it is much higher than that of CEOs of similarly sized public companies and slightly lower than that of S&P 500 CEOs. Overall, our results suggest that the broader market for CEOs is active and that, at least for PE funded portfolio companies, firm-specific human capital is relatively unimportant.

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