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FOR THE UNREPRESSED David M. Rubenstein, founder and co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, used the occasion of a talk in Miami last week to recall the arcadia of easy money, effortless fund raising and record-breaking deal making that came to a screeching halt in 2007. Why, said Rubenstein, in that culminating year, the fattest of five fat years, global buyout transactions worth $860 billion were signed, sealed and delivered. But then--wouldn't you know it?--proceeded five lean years. In the upswing, all seemed certain, but in the bad times, doubt descended. "[A]ll the deals that were done in the golden age," Rubenstein mused, "would they survive? No. 2, would the firms themselves survive, because they had done so many deals that didn't look good, would they be around? No. 3, would investors fund their capital?" To each of these questions, Rubenstein was able to reply "yes." Of the 25 biggest deals done in the golden age, he said, only two failed. The largest private equity funds survived, and the limited partners met their financial commitments. So the world loves the big public purveyors of private equity and so-called alternative assets? It absolutely does not, on which fact hangs a story. Blackstone (BX on the New York Stock Exchange) and KKR & Co. (KKR, also on the Big Board) are the subjects at hand. However, as usual, Interest rates, even our tiny ones, lurk not far offstage. While the Federal Reserve has managed to "repress" Mom and Pop with its zero-percent funds ...

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