After a nearly 3-year buyout spree, private equity firms are facing tightened credit conditions just as slumping consumer spending squeezes many of their acquisitions, the New York Times reports. The leveraged-buyout bubble that culminated in $796 billion in deals in 2007 is bursting, leading to a grim reckoning as firms saddled with the debt used to buy them are unable to secure fresh credit to weather the downturn.
Retailers like Linens 'n Things, Mervyn’s and Steve & Barry’s—all backed by private equity—have filed for bankruptcy this year. The private-equity bubble of the 1980s provides a grim precedent: 30% of leveraged buyout deals made from 1986 to 1989 defaulted. “The dangling other shoe is now about to drop,” a Yale expert says of the current situation.